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Sabres grind out first February winning streak

There weren't many style points. This time of year, they're not that relevant.

The Buffalo Sabres got the job done Thursday night in a dicey game against a struggling opponent. They locked down the Colorado Avalanche through the first two periods -- allowing only 11 shots on goal -- and got the play they needed from Evander Kane late in the third to produce an insurance goal.

Robin Lehner was stout in the net and the Sabres were 2-0 winners over the NHL's worst team, giving them their first back-to-back wins of the month.

"We need to go back to back to back to back to back to back," Kane said. "That's where we're at right now at this point of the season."

While that might be true, at least the Sabres are well within range of the playoff race. This win got them within three points of idle Toronto in the race for the final Eastern Conference wild card slot, and within four of Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division.

And while Sam Reinhart's power-play 48 seconds into the second period was all the Sabres had to stand on for nearly 35 minutes, there never seemed to be much panic in the team's play. They had plenty of possession time in the first two periods and still had 11 shots on goal in the third.

"I like the way we played with our mentality going into that third," Reinhart said. "We felt comfortable. We were composed going in there and I don't think we were sitting back there too much.

"I think that was our best game in a while at limiting their time in the offensive zone. We were breaking the puck out as quick as possible and keeping it down there. When they did break us down, Lehner was there again. That seems like a broken record at this point. He's been there to bail us out a lot."

Through two periods, the shot counter had the Sabres in front, 21-11. Want some perspective on that? The Ottawa Senators had 11 shots on goal against Lehner & Co. in the final 5 1/2 minutes of the second period Tuesday night.

"We had consistent pressure in their zone and that helped get rid of of maybe some of the panic or pressure you could have had," Kane said. "We knew we were spending a long time in the zone, knew we were getting chances and it was going to come."

Keep in mind that the Avs had four of their shots in the game's first 90 seconds. Their best scoring chance all night came 20 seconds into the game when Lehner stoned former Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who was left open in the slot.

"It was kind of nice that I started getting bored there in the second a little bit," said Lehner. "It was very nice to see how we had 3-4 guys in the middle the whole second period. We were dumping pucks when we didn't have anything. We did a lot of things right today."

The Sabres outshot the Avs, 32-23, with Colorado's total the lowest by a Buffalo opponent since Carolina had 22 while posting a shootout win over the Sabres Dec. 17 in Raleigh. The Sabres had allowed at least 30 shots for 16 straight games.

"It got a little scary," said coach Dan Bylsma. "We had a good run of possessions with offensive zone time but a post here a bounce there that didn't go our way. Even after the first period, we're talking about staying with the game plan ... I liked how our guys stuck with the game the whole way through. I thought we did a good job playing defense and limiting the opportunities they did have."

Reinhart aptly called his goal a dirty one, as he pounced on a rebound of a Rasmus Ristolainen and stuffed the puck home. Kane's goal, his team-high 19th of the season, was easier on the eys as he cut back against Francois Beauchemin and scorched Calvin Pickard with a shot between the legs with 4:14 to go.

That was all the offense the Sabres could muster and they'll definitely need another gear -- or two or three -- for this weekend, when they host St. Louis and Chicago before heading to their bye week.

This win also ended the Sabres' bizarre run of poor luck on Thursdays. Buffalo entered the game just 1-10-2 on Thursdays this season, a stark contrast to its 10-3-3 record on Tuesdays -- or its 23-13-8 mark on all other days of the week

"I didn't tell them our record but we finally got a Thursday win," said Bylsma. "Little bit more like a Tuesday than a Thursday for this team."

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