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Sabres make the key plays, grind out yet another road win over Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Buffalo Sabres did the dirty work and got rewarded for it yet again in the Bay Area Friday night.

Overcoming an early goal on the first shot they gave up, the Sabres stayed patient and showed no panic. They got a tying goal from Johan Larsson in the second period, a go-ahead tally from Zach Bogosian with 7:24 to go in the third and solid goaltending from Chad Johnson to post a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in SAP Center.

The Sabres got their road points percentage over .500 by improving to 14-13-4 away from First Niagara Center. They also snapped the Sharks' nine-game home points streak (6-0-3), and won for the fifth straight time here.

"We grinded that game and it was a good road win for us," Bogosian said.

"In these kind of games, you need ugly goals in front of the net," Larsson said. "Traffic and rebounds. That's what we did."

Bogosian snapped a 1-1 tie with his shot from the right point, which deflected off the foot of Sharks forward Tomas Hertl and past goaltender Martin Jones after some strong work down low by Zemgus Girgensons.

"I tried to make a little fake to open up a lane and I shot it," Bogosian said. "Sometimes those ones go in. The hockey gods I guess liked me today."

The Sharks pulled Jones with more than two minutes left but never had a great chance to score. The 5-foot-7 Gionta helped the Sabres clear the zone by battling 6-foot-5 Sharks defenseman Brent Burns for the puck and Bogosian eventually fed Evander Kane for an empty netter with 1:17 left.

"it started with 'Gio' on the wall going against Burns who is a big guy," Bogosian said. "Gio sacrificed his body to get the puck stopped to give our guys time to get set and get in position. The puck came across and I just tried to give it to Evander. The goal scorer he is, he's going to put it in."

"It says a lot about our team," said Johnson, who stopped the final 24 shots he faced. "It's good for us to look back on this type of game, building for next year and the future. You sort of look at these kind of games. If you play a certain way, you can get wins. You don't have to always outscore a team. Play your systems, play gritty and we did that tonight."

Johnson was beaten by Marc-Eduoard Vlasic's shot at 1:32 of the first period as he was screened by Justin Bailey. Larsson finally got Buffalo even at 13:38 of the second period, poking a loose puck in the crease home after a Gionta shot had leaked through Jones.

"The first opportunity goes in the back of the net on us," coach Dan Bylsma said. "But we didn't sink our heads down and I think we could have against this team, the way they're playing in this building. We fight back, really stay patient in the game and go stride for stride with them.

"Right to the end, I thought it showed a lot about our team. I know the guys were proud of the battle we've had in this game."

Bylsma had gone 0-3 in this building while coaching Pittsburgh and Johnson said the raucous atmosphere has always been an issue in his previous visits.

"It's probably the toughest rink to play in the first 10 minutes," Johnson said. "Every team I've been on, it  seems like they come out hard and score in the first 10 minutes at least one goal on us. For us giving up that one, we didn't get on our heels too much. We stuck to the game plan, stuck together. We used each other when we needed to to get it out of the zone."

With Robin Lehner almost certain to reclaim the net Saturday in Los Angeles, the waiting is officially on for Johnson heading into Monday's trade deadline. One possible target, St. Louis, reportedly made a deal late Friday night for Edmonton goaltending prospect Anders Nilsson. Now Johnson waits to see if another team -- perhaps the Sharks -- gets a deal done for him with Sabres General Manager Tim Murray.

"It's an uneasy sort of time right now," Johnson said. "You kind of just want to get it over with, to be honest. It's just a weird week. I just want to get it over with."

"It was a bit of a bounceback game for him dealing with the first shot going in," Bylsma said. "Turns out to be a real strong performance ... I hope it's not his last for us."

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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