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Sabres' Pouliot holding up his end of the bargain with scoring run

Let's fact-check a few things Benoit Pouliot has said.

The Sabres forward says he's a slow starter. The numbers back him up.

He said he has a lot to prove after watching his stats plummet so low that Edmonton bought him out. That's true, too.

He said he's the type of player who just stands in front of the net for his goals.

No way, Pinocchio.

Pouliot scored one of Buffalo's prettiest goals of the season Tuesday during a 3-1 victory over Washington. He scooped up the puck deep in his own zone and burst up the left side. He danced past Jakub Vrana as if the forward were standing still. Pouliot's speed forced defenseman Brooks Orpik to back up and back up some more.

With room to shoot, Pouliot put a laser into the top corner. The goal with 3:22 gone in the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and gave the forward his third game-winning goal of the year.

That's especially impressive considering Buffalo has just five wins.

"It wasn't the type of goal I usually get a chance to do," Pouliot said with a grin, "but it ended up good."

The whole night ended well for the Sabres. They needed to rebound after losing three of the previous four, and this nearly complete game did it.

"Just playing with that passion, playing with that fire and not wanting to lose, I thought that was great," center Jack Eichel said. "It's a good step for us. We've just got to use it and keep doing a lot of things we did."

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It helps to have one of the hottest scorers in the NHL. Pouliot boosted his season total to five goals, and they've all come in the last seven games.

Not coincidentally, that's when the left winger joined center Ryan O'Reilly and right wing Kyle Okposo.

"He's taken advantage of the opportunity," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "He's been really consistent since he's been moved there. He's contributed offensively, which is nice to see because we've got to try to spread the scoring around a little bit. He's scored some big goals for us."

Pouliot has scored big goals during the past eight seasons, but last year wasn't one of them. He had eight goals and six assists in 67 games with Edmonton, prompting the Oilers to buy out the final two seasons of his five-year, $20 million contract.

The Sabres pounced on the opening day of free agency, getting Pouliot at the bargain rate of one season for $1.15 million.

"Last year in Edmonton was very disappointing personally," the 31-year-old said. "As a team we made a good push in the playoffs, which was nice. It's always nice to make the playoffs.

"But on a personal note, for sure, I was really frustrated the whole year. Things weren't going good, and I was down on myself. I was hard on myself. It's frustrating playing that way and trying to get out of a slump like that.

"Right now things are good, and hopefully things will keep going."

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Pouliot is tied for third on the Sabres in goals. He trails Evander Kane, who jumped to nine Tuesday by scoring the opening goal and finding an empty net, and six-time scorer Jason Pominville.

It's an impressive start for someone who typically doesn't have them. His four highest-scoring seasons are littered with ugly numbers. He had one goal in the opening 12 games in 2009-10. He went scoreless in the opening eight games in 2011-12 and 2013-14. He had one goal in the first 14 games in 2014-15.

He had no goals and one assist in the opening eight games this season, but the line change reignited his game.

"Things have been working out," Pouliot said. "We're communicating. The chemistry's there. It's a positive as far as our line is going.

"My starts haven't really been good the past few years. It always takes me a little bit to get going, but this year things have been clicking early, which is nice. It's something that I've got to consistently do it throughout the year and not just a few games here and there."

The Wraparound: Sabres 3, Capitals 1

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