EDMONTON, Alberta — Someone other than Tyler Ennis or Drew Stafford actually scored for the Buffalo Sabres here Thursday night.
No coincidence the Sabres actually won a game.
Former Canisius College star Cory Conacher notched his first two goals as a Sabre with a pair of nifty deflections as Buffalo broke away from a 1-1 tie through two periods and beat the Edmonton Oilers, 3-1, in Rexall Place.
Goalie Matt Hackett made 35 saves to get the win in his Buffalo debut. It was his first NHL victory since coming on in relief to earn a shootout win for Minnesota at Phoenix on March 8, 2012.
The Sabres ended their seven-game losing streak and thus avoided setting a franchise mark of eight straight losses in regulation. They had scored only six goals in the seven games – all by Ennis and Stafford.
“When you lose, you get what you deserve,” said coach Ted Nolan. “I thought tonight we got what we deserved too.”
Conacher, pulled from the top line Thursday after six scoreless games, snapped that at 9:16 of the second period, tipping home Jamie McBain’s point shot on a power play as John Scott set a screen. That tied the game at 1-1 and Buffalo took the lead on Conacher’s tip of a Cody Hodgson shot at 1:09 of the third period.
“It’s been great coming here playing the minutes I’ve been playing,” said Conacher, who had not scored since Dec. 28 with Ottawa but found the range playing with Hodgson and Torrey Mitchell. “Maybe this is the game I needed to let the floodgates open a little bit.”
Stafford scored off a nifty Ennis pass at 4:44 and the Sabres cruised home, posting only their eighth road win of the year. Just five have been in regulation. The shots on goal in the game were even at 36-36.
When the buzzer sounded after one final scramble, Hackett was on his knees and thrust both arms over his head in celebration.
“I was so happy,” he said. “I’ve had a really tough year in Rochester. To come here and play like that was a good feeling.”
Hackett needed to make just two saves in the first 13 minutes as the Sabres locked things down and didn’t allow the Oilers any room. But Buffalo soon got into penalty trouble and the Edmonton power play buzzed the Sabres’ zone.
Edmonton had 12 shots on goal in the final seven minutes of the opening period, eight coming with the man advantage. And they capitalized at 17:48 as Taylor Hall blistered a one-timer past Hackett from the right circle after a feed from Justin Schultz.
Hall took a hooking penalty at 7:56 of the second period and the Sabres made him pay with Conacher’s first goal, a neat deflection of Jamie McBain’s shot from the right point.
Conacher was up high, near the top of the circle and picked the puck out of the air. John Scott, all 6-foot-7 of him, set up a screen in front of Scrivens and the Oilers’ goalie guessed wrong looking around him.
The Sabres scratched Ville Leino, who remains without a goal since March 30, 2013, and drew Nolan’s ire Tuesday in Calgary for his play on the Flames’ first goal in the 3-1 loss.
Leino tried to stickhandle through a group of Flames and lost the puck. It eventually went to the point and Leino did not hustle out to defend T.J. Brodie and Joe Colborne stuffed home a ricochet off the back boards to tie the game with 1:02 left in the second period.
Leino didn’t play in the third period. He’s minus-14 for the season and minus-5 in the last four games.
“He has to be better,” Nolan said. “Going forward here, we have to make sure the people in the lineup are giving what they can give. If they don’t give what they can give, we’ll make changes.”
Nolan said defenseman Tyler Myers (arm) will not join the team on the current road trip and will miss at least another week. So it looks like March 29 against Tampa is the earliest he would return. ... Hackett became the 43rd player to appear in a game for the Sabres this season, tying the franchise record set in 1986-87 and equaled in 1991-92.