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Sabres shift gears, follow each other to hard-working win

Breakaways are fun. Odd-man rushes are exciting.

Hard work to keep the puck wins games.

The Buffalo Sabres see that now.

A five-minute stretch during the second period Friday helped the Sabres end their seven-game winless skid. One after another, the players hopped over the boards and pinned the Edmonton Oilers in their zone.

It led to the opening goal in Buffalo's long-awaited 3-1 victory.

"All the lines contributed to that goal," said goal-scorer Jacob Josefson. "One line was wearing them down, then the next line and the next line. They felt kind of tired, so we were just feeding off what the other lines did there."

The Sabres' feeding frenzy was appreciated by the win-starved crowd in KeyBank Center. It was also appreciated in the dressing room, which has been the home to several frank discussions as the 0-5-2 skid weighed on the team.

"It's just nice to get a win and play a complete game," right wing Kyle Okposo said. "There's a lot of things said in the last couple days in this locker room, and we've got to grow up and mature and start playing a more mature game.

"You see it night in, night out when these teams come in and they just don't stray from their game plan. They keep playing the same way and make it tough to play against. We did a good job of that, and we've got to make sure we're bringing that effort every night."

The scoreless game turned in Buffalo's favor with Josefson's goal late in the second period.

The line of Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Criscuolo established zone time with 9:05 left. Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Jason Pominville came on next and created four shot attempts. Ryan O'Reilly, Benoit Pouliot and Sam Reinhart followed with two more.

Finally, Josefson, Okposo and Jordan Nolan joined the party. All three touched the puck, though the hardest work came at the end.

Josefson held steady along the boards as Edmonton's Yohann Auvitu hounded him. Josefson then lost the defenseman behind the net and came out front for a shot. As Okposo chased down the rebound, Josefson found open ice in the slot.

He buried his shot into the top corner and accepted fist-bumps at the bench from a group of players who saw what puck management and tenacity could do. There hasn't been enough of that during the Sabres' 6-13-4 start.

"We were rolling them at that point, and everybody was working hard in the offensive zone," Okposo said. "You can trace it to four shifts before. It didn't start with our line. It started with the guys that came before us and were wearing them down.

"Joey did a great job the whole shift. He had the puck on his stick for probably 10 seconds, just grinding it down low, working it down low, and then I was able to find him in the slot."

Josefson's goal was his first of the season. It came one game after Nolan scored twice.

The Sabres are finally getting goals by people not named Kane. Eichel and Okposo also scored Friday.

"It's good when everyone can contribute," Josefson said. "We stuck to what we talked about, and it gave us the result we wanted."

The Oilers, who seemed uninterested during the opening two periods, ruined Robin Lehner's shutout bid with 20 seconds remaining. The Sabres should get a tougher fight Saturday night when they visit Montreal.

At least they know now what a little hard work can do.

"That's how we've got to play," Okposo said. "I know those guys are struggling over there, but we'll take the win and we'll take how we played and hopefully carry it into tomorrow."

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