It didn't take long to see which Sabres team was playing Monday. It was the good one.
Buffalo scored with just 19 seconds off the clock, propelling the home team to a 4-1 victory over Dallas. Buffalo has won three straight in KeyBank Center, with the latest easing the sting of two straight losses on the road.
The Sabres improved to 17-17-9 overall and 8-3-2 against the Western Conference. Jack Eichel scored twice.
Welcome back: Tyler Ennis, who missed 30 games because of sports hernia/groin surgery, needed just 19 seconds to remind fans what he can do. Dallas defenseman John Klingberg twice turned the puck over in his zone, handing it to Ennis. The winger stepped to the right faceoff dot and sent a top-shelf laser past Kari Lehtonen.
Doubling up: The first power-play goal of Jake McCabe’s career gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead with 7:26 left in the first. The Sabres again took advantage of Dallas’ sloppiness. The Stars’ Jamie Benn passed the puck directly to McCabe in the slot, and the defenseman fired high for his first goal in 10 months.
On the board: Despite being outplayed in the opening period, the Stars exited with just a 2-1 deficit. Radek Faksa forced a turnover in the Buffalo zone, then got in the right spot. Jiri Hudler’s shot hit the post and bounced off Faksa in the crease with 4:46 left.
Near misses: The Sabres came out flying, taking 13 shots in the first. Lehtonen stopped two point-blank chances by Eichel and heard Ryan O’Reilly hit the post. Buffalo thought it had a goal when Eichel drove to the net to draw a penalty, with Taylor Fedun burying the rebound. But officials denied the goal as Faksa touched the puck before Fedun.
Eichel had five shots and seven attempts in the opening period. After two periods, he had already set a career high with nine shots.
Eichel gets it: The Sabres center deserved to be on the score sheet, and he got there with 7:07 gone in the second. The power play struck again. Lehtonen stopped Rasmus Ristolainen’s slap shot and two net-front whacks by Sam Reinhart. Rather than take a third shot, Reinhart pushed the puck to his left. Eichel easily deposited for his ninth of the season.
Eichel scored his 10th into an empty net with 9.3 seconds to play.
Buffalo improved to 6-0-1 this season when Eichel scores.
Coaching win: Dallas appeared to tie the game, 2-2, just 1:38 into the second period. Patrick Eaves cost himself the goal. He tipped home a shot by defenseman Stephen Johns, but the Sabres’ Dan Bylsma issued a coach’s challenge. Replays showed Eaves was offsides on the scoring play, and the goal was taken off the board.
Goalie win: Buffalo netminder Robin Lehner, who missed three games because of the flu, won his second straight start. He made 31 save to improve to 10-12-5 this season.
Oh, snap: Benn showed his anger in the final minute of the second. First, he snapped a stick over his knee after a whistle. He got more lumber when he got to the bench, and he promptly snapped that one, too.
Brothers in arms: The Sabres recalled center Cal O’Reilly from Rochester prior to the game. He skated in the middle of left wing William Carrier and Matt Moulson. Ryan O’Reilly centered for Ennis and Kyle Okposo. Eichel was between Marcus Foligno and Sam Reinhart. Zemgus Girgensons was in the middle of Evander Kane and Brian Gionta.
Nicolas Deslauriers was the healthy forward scratch.
Counting the house: The Sabres announced a sellout of 19,070 tickets sold for their Martin Luther King Day matinee.
Next: The Sabres boarded the bus following Monday’s game and headed across the border to Toronto. They visit Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.