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Special teams give Sabres fond farewell at The Joe

DETROIT -- There's not a lot of deep analysis needed to dissect the Buffalo Sabres' 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings here Monday night in their final game at Joe Louis Arena.

After going 0 for 4 on the power play in their three games in California, the Sabres went 2 for 2 on goals from Jack Eichel and Matt Moulson. They also went 4 for 4 on their penalty kill. The result was their first two-game winning streak in more than a month.

"We talk about winning the special teams battle every game," said Moulson, who added to his team lead with his 11th power play goal of the season. "We did a good job with that tonight."

Added Eichel: "We weren't too happy with the power play out West so it's nice to get a couple."

Eichel scored in the first period on a one-timed wrist shot off a Ryan O'Reilly feed for his 21st goal of the season. Moulson's 14th was also aesthetically pleasing.

The Sabres work the tip drill in the slot on the power play regularly in practice and executed it perfectly on Tyler Ennis' feed in the slot to Moulson, who deflected it through Petr Mrazek's legs.

"I knew what he was thinking on that one," Moulson said of Ennis, who notched his first point in 12 games. "He was kind of looking at me. I just got open for him and he made a great play."

The Sabres reclaimed the NHL lead on the power play at 24 percent for the season with their 14th multi-goal performance. Moulson said the Sabres' confidence is rooted in their familiarity with each other and the plans of first-year assistant coaches Bob Woods and Tom Ward to get players in the right spots on the ice.

"Offensively, the power play is what makes us go," Moulson said.

The Sabres entered the game 29th in penalty killing but were perfect in four chances in this game, allowing just six shots on goal. They've killed off 11 of their last 12 penalties. Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe, Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges all piled up more than three minutes of penalty killing time, with Kane and Gorges combining for seven of Buffalo's 16 blocked shots.

"The penalty kill was great today," said goalie Robin Lehner, who made 34 saves. "I had two or three good shots on four penalties. Ryan O'Reilly won good faceoffs, everybody had good clears and got it down the ice."

Eichel got a chance on one Detroit power play and also spent the bulk of the last minute on the ice with the Wings playing 6 on 5 with the goalie out. Eichel also used back pressure and pure hustle to break up a 2-on-1 Wings rush in the first period.

"It seems like I take a lot of heat for my defensive play and I don't think it's as bad as people say," Eichel said. "I'm just trying to work on it and get better."

"I thought he was really good in those situations," noted coach Dan Bylsma. "He's playing an all-around solid game and I thought this was one of his better ones.":

Eichel said he's working hard to build the coaches' trust in him on the defensive end of the ice.

"It's something I want to build in my game so I can become a more complete player," he said. "It's more opportunity on the ice. It gets you in the game. I'd like to become a regular on our penalty kill. I think I can bring a lot to it. To have them be able to put me out there at the end of the game is good."

The Sabres finished 14-23-6 at the Joe, winning their last two and putting together their first winning streak in the old barn since 1981. Afterward, Eichel talked about last year's chance meeting and photo with Gordie Howe a few months before Mr. Hockey died at age 88.

"That was pretty memorable, pretty cool being able to meet Mr. Hockey last year and get a picture with him," Eichel said. "Definitely a special moment. Pretty cool being able to score here a couple times. It's such a historic building when you walk in and think about some of the guys that have walked in this room, sat on that bench and played here. It's pretty special."

Bylsma said he'd likely take home a souvenir of some sort and cracked a smile when reminded his final trip ended in a 2-1 win -- just like Game Seven of the Stanley Cup final here in 2009 when he directed the Pittsburgh Penguins to victory.

"I had a moment by myself this morning just taking a deep breath of the smell of the Joe, the sights and some of the memories," he said. "I certainly enjoyed it stepping off the ice tonight. ... I'll have something in my pocket on the way out the door."

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