EDMONTON, Alberta – The Buffalo Sabres have had trouble scoring five goals in a week, let alone two periods. So when the offense absolutely exploded during the opening 40 minutes Tuesday, it would have been easy to come to the dressing room and celebrate the good times.
Instead, the players looked at the other side of the scoreboard. Edmonton was still stuck at zero. The goal wasn't to cheer for the goals. It was to get Robin Lehner a shutout.
Maybe these guys really are figuring things out.
For the second straight night, the Sabres looked like a capable and downright good NHL team. They trounced the Oilers, 5-0, a score that showed the true dominance that existed in all phases of the game.
"That was fun," left wing Zemgus Girgensons said in Rogers Place. "It's just playing for each other, competing – the things we should have been doing all year. It makes a big difference when everyone is on the same page and works for each other."
The Sabres won two in a row for just the second time this year, matching a feat accomplished way back in October. The manner in which they won was significant. They gutted out a 2-1 overtime victory in Calgary on Monday. They roared past the rested Oilers, who'd won three straight.
It can easily be traced back to Saturday's 7-1 loss to Dallas at home. They looked like they didn't belong in the league. They wanted to prove they do.
"You go back to the game that we had at home, the 7-1 loss, I think we learned a lot of what we need to do as a team in our checking and our play without the puck," coach Phil Housley said. "I think the guys are really enjoying that. They're getting opportunities because of it. We're getting the puck on our stick because of that. We're drawing penalties.
"We've got to continue to play that way."
Consistency has obviously been an issue for the team. To have it two nights in a row may sound like nothing to most clubs, but it's a step for this organization.
"All we can do is try and build something and change something around here," right wing Sam Reinhart said. "Two big road wins and different road wins at that shows a lot."
While long-term lessons are important, it was fun for once to live in the moment. The Sabres certainly had fun blowing someone out.
"We've been on the other side of that this year," center Jack Eichel said. "You obviously prefer to be in our position tonight."
The Sabres celebrated once in the first period and four times in the second. Their power play went 3 for 4, scoring on its first three opportunities. Eichel had four points, including his 20th goal of the season, allowing him to join Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Thomas Vanek as the only Sabres to score 20 in each of their opening three seasons.
Reinhart had a goal and two assists. Ryan O'Reilly scored twice. Rasmus Ristolainen and Kyle Okposo added two assists each. Everyone but defensemen Jake McCabe and Justin Falk had a shot, and they contributed blocked shots.
"It's not about one guy or two guys or three guys," said Lehner, who stopped all 33 shots. "When we all show up, all 20 of us, we're a good hockey team. It makes the job easier for everyone. That's what happened the last two games, and these are the results you get.
"It was nice to see the work ethic. Obviously, it's been there the last two games, but just the way we've been playing all over the ice is what's really rewarding for me to see. We're five guys attacking, five guys defending, five guys in the neutral zone attacking."
The five goals tied the Sabres' season high, set in 5-4 victories over Boston on Oct. 21 and Arizona on Nov. 2. It was the first time the Sabres had a five-goal lead since March 19, 2012, according to research by Sabres videographer Sam Korotkin.
"You just want to keep doing the right things," Eichel said. "It's important for us all to realize what got us to this position in winning this game and why we had success. Obviously, we took care of the puck, but I thought we did a real good job getting the puck back when we didn't have it. We took their time and space away. We were good in the neutral zone. I thought our D did a great job breaking the puck out.
"It's a recipe for success in a game like this. You compete, you win your battles and you're going to have success."
They'll try it again Thursday when they finish their three-game road trip in Vancouver.
"We know where we're at," Reinhart said of the Sabres' 13-26-9 record, "and it's not just one game that's going to do anything at this point. We need to be consistent. All we can do is take it day-by-day, and this was another step for us."