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Girgensons nets game-winner as Sabres get balance in victory

PHILADELPHIA - As Zemgus Girgensons skated toward the Philadelphia net for an overtime breakaway, Dan Bylsma started inching toward the Sabres’ dressing room. The coach had no doubt Girgensons’ scoring woes were about to end.

He was right. Girgensons scored the winner in a 4-3 overtime victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday, getting rid of the zeros he had in both the goal and point columns.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Girgensons said in Wells Fargo Center. “This season with all the expectations, it’s nice to get that first one out of the way.”

The Sabres improved to 3-6 because Girgensons wasn’t alone in finally reaching the score sheet. Jamie McGinn scored his first goal in nearly a year. Johan Larsson, Brian Gionta and Carlo Colaiacovo all had assists for their initial points.

With Evander Kane injured, the Sabres need a balanced attack. They got it to end a two-game losing streak and get their first road victory.

“It’s been trouble for all these games, not just for me,” Girgensons said. “It’s nice for the guys to open up a little bit.”

The eight-game slump was a head-scratcher for Girgensons, who was one of the few offensive performers for the Sabres last year. He had 15 goals and 30 points in 61 games before his season ended prematurely because of injury.

“Zemgus is one of those guys for us who’s had a number of really good opportunities to score goals,” Bylsma said. “He went on the breakaway. We were actually talking about his goals last year and how many he had on a breakaway - it was six of his goals last year - so when he got the puck I kind of started walking off the bench thinking he was going to find it, and he did.”

While McGinn didn’t predict the goal, he saw it coming for Girgensons.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Z,” the right winger said. “I thought he played a great game. He hustled all over the ice, and he did a lot of good things. There were a lot of plays where he turned a 50-50 puck into a scoring chance.”

As the Sabres showed during their opening eight games, chances are one thing. Making them count is another. While the entire dressing room was relieved to earn a victory, the guys with their first points had multiple reasons to celebrate.

“Everyone battled hard,” said Larsson, who had two assists. “Every line was rolling. We were shooting, going to the net, so I think this was our best game so far.

“It’s a great team win.”

Nine skaters recorded points for the Sabres. They outshot the Flyers, 40-33. It was the first time they had 40 shots since putting up 44 on Feb. 3, 2014, in a 3-2 loss to Edmonton.

“That’s what a team’s all about,” McGinn said. “You can’t rely on one guy. If one guy goes down, everyone else picks up the pieces. We have a lot of skill in this room, and a lot of heart. I think we have the pieces to be able to pick it up and continue to move forward.”

McGinn scored his first goal since Nov. 4, 2014, though it was a span of just 13 games because of a season-ending injury suffered days after the tally.

“It was a long time coming, and it felt good,” he said. “Hopefully, there’s more good things to come.”

The next chance to achieve something comes Thursday when the Sabres finish their two-game road trip in Pittsburgh.

“It’s just really rewarding to get that ‘W,’” said defenseman Jake McCabe, who scored his second career goal. “We finally got over that hump and hopefully we can continue to build on that going into Pittsburgh.”

email: jvogl@buffnews.com

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