Look West, young men.
That seems to be the Buffalo Sabres' motto when they want to succeed in First Niagara Center. The Sabres tied their franchise record with points in their eighth straight game against a Western Conference team Saturday, even though it came in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild before a sellout crowd of 19,070.
Former Sabres captain Jason Pominville got the winning goal for Minnesota in the fourth round as the Wild won the shootout, 2-1. Jack Eichel had scored in the first round for Buffalo. The Sabres are 1-6 in shootouts.
Buffalo is 5-0-3 in its last eight here against the West, equaling a 7-0-1 stretch that ran from Oct. 8, 2009 to March 10, 2010. Buffalo's last regulation home loss to a Western team was its 3-2 loss to Nashville on Nov. 25.
The Sabres finished 2-2-2 in a six-game stretch against the West overall, and grabbed four of six points in a trio of home games against Edmonton, Calgary and the Wild. Buffalo is 11-11-5 against the West this season and 4-6-3 against the Central Division -- a grouping it won just one game against last year.
Johan Larsson and Jack Eichel scored second-period power play goals 83 seconds apart as the Sabres' struggling power play turned around a game that Buffalo trailed, 1-0, after a quiet opening 20 minutes. But Minnesota tied it on Mikko Koivu's power-play goal with 5:51 left in regulation.
Tough break: The Wild broke on top at 2:16 on David Jones' 10th goal of the season, a fluky tally that snuck through Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner. The shot ricocheted off the post and the side the of net, with the clank clearly audible throughout the arena, before bouncing to the middle of the crease and ticking off the skate of Rasmus Ristolainen before sliding over the goal line.
Key penalty: Wild forward Nino Niederreiter committed a four-minute high sticking infraction at 4:23 of the second period, putting the Buffalo power play to work. The Sabres scored on both ends of the penalty -- after going just 1 for 16 on the power play over the last five games.
PPG I: Larsson dumped home a Ristolainen rebound at 5:15 of the second period to tie the game. It was his fifth goal of the season and gave him goals in consecutive games for the first time this season.
PPG II: Eichel got his team-high 19th at 6:38, pounding home Sam Reinhart's cross-ice pass from the right circle.
30 for 30 Rookies: Reinhart's assist was his 30th point of the season, making him and Eichel the first pair of Buffalo rookies to hit 30 points in a season since Thomas Vanek (48) and Jason Pominville (30) did it in 2005-06. Eichel now has a team-high 19 goals and 44 points, second among NHL rookies. Vanek and Pominville, of course, now play for the Wild. Neither figured in the scoring Saturday.
Penalty killers stumble: The Sabres did not have to kill a Minnesota power play until there was 6:15 left in the game, when Josh Gorges was nailed for tripping. The Wild tied the game 34 seconds later on Koivu's one-timer from the right circle off a Matt Dumba feed. The Sabres had killed 27 of their previous 29 disadvantages.
Up Next: The Sabres practice Sunday and then bus to Toronto to meet the new-look Leafs Monday in Air Canada Centre. It will be the first of three games against Mike Babcock's crew, whom the Sabres haven't met since a 2-1 shootout win on Oct. 21.