ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Remember all that chatter about the Buffalo Sabres not scoring early and not playing with a lead? They had quite the breakthrough in the final two games of their Midwest road trip.
The Sabres scored a trio of first-period goals Tuesday night and goaltender Linus Ullmark then held the fort to cement a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in XCel Energy Center. The Sabres have won two straight for the first time in nearly a month, since they posted 2-1 wins over Detroit and Los Angeles on Dec. 12 and 14.
Goals by Jamie McGinn, Rasmus Ristolainen and Brian Gionta staked the Sabres to a 3-0 lead after one period. The Sabres scored twice in the opener 20 minutes of Sunday's 4-2 win at Winnipeg, giving them five first-period goals in two games.
Through the first 41 games of their season, Buffalo was last in the NHL with just 15 goals in the first period.
Power forwards: The Sabres opened the scoring at 9:37 as McGinn deposited an Evander Kane rebound behind Devan Dubnyk for his ninth goal of the season. Kane had done tremendous work in the Wild zone to set up the play. The secondary assist went to Ryan O'Reilly, his team-high 20th of the season.
Rapid fire: The Sabres stunned the sellout crowd of 19,034 with two goals in a 20-second span late in the period. Ristolainen scored his eighth of the year -- and first since his Dec. 10 hat trick in Calgary -- at 17:30 by following up on his blocked shot and snaking one through from the right point off a Minnesota player. Gionta scored at 17:50 with a mid-air tip of Josh Gorges' shot from the left point. The goal stood after video review.
O Captain: Gionta assisted on the Ristolainen goal, thus giving him two points in the 20 seconds. He had just three points in his previous 14 games.
In the net: Ullmark got his second straight win by making 28 saves. Perhaps his best one came late in the second period when he stopped Jason Zucker on a 4-on-2 break.
He was beaten by Ryan Suter's short-handed tally at 12:57 of the second period, a backhand that plopped in the air and rolled down Ullmark's back into the net, and Thomas Vanek's tip-in with 51.8 seconds left.
Ullmark also made his second straight start, breaking coach Dan Bylsma's eight-game alternate pattern of starts for Ullmark and Chad Johnson. Bylsma cited Ullmark's 42-save outing Sunday in Winnipeg as the reason why. Said Bylsma: "No question about earning the right to be back in tonight for us with the play in Winnipeg."
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Standing pat on D: Even though Mark Pysyk flew to Minnesota Monday and took the morning skate Tuesday, Bylsma kept him as a healthy scratch and opted to go with the same lineup that won in Winnipeg. Pysyk, who has been out since Nov. 17, is likely to play Friday night at home against Boston.
Pysyk was summoned in large part because of Jake McCabe's lower-body injury suffered Sunday, but Bylsma said McCabe was feeling significantly better on Monday at practice and went full speed at the morning skate.
D is for Decision: With eight healthy defensemen now, the Sabres are likely to make some sort of move in the next couple days. Bylsma loathes having eight blueliners and confirmed he's had discussions with General Manager Tim Murray on the subject.
"We've talked about it and know where we're at," Bylsma said. "Eight is not an ideal situation. It's not going to be a rotation of four guys in and out of the lineup. We know that."
Old captains report: Former Buffalo captain Jason Pominville remained stuck on 598 career points with his 10th straight pointless game for the Wild. Pominville has just five goals and 14 assists in 43 games this season -- and just one goal in his last 13. Meanwhile, Thomas Vanek led the Wild with five shots on goal. His goal gave him 14 on the season.
Lehner update: What figures to be the final rehab assignment for goaltender Robin Lehner with the Rochester Amerks is set for Wednesday night in Albany. Lehner is 1-1 in his first two outings and the Sabres will likely bring him up for practice on Thursday if everything goes well with the Amerks.
Up Next: The Sabres were to fly home immediately after the game and will take a CBA-mandated day off on Wednesday before returning to practice on Thursday. They play back-to-back home games Friday and Saturday against Boston and Washington, one of which is likely to be Lehner's return to the Buffalo goal for the first time he suffered his high ankle sprain in the second period of the season opener Ocotober 8 against Ottawa.