SAINT PAUL, Minn. — While this season already has given the Sabres years worth of lessons, there was some curiosity as to how they would respond to playing two road games in under 24 hours against two of the Western Conference's best.
They passed the test in a way few expected. The Sabres overcame a two-goal, first-period deficit, and Jason Pominville's backhander with 90 seconds remaining helped them bury the Minnesota Wild, 3-2, Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center. This after Buffalo beat the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1, in a shootout.
The Sabres' five-game winning streak is their first since 2012, and they've earned 26 points through 20 games for the eighth time in franchise history. The other seven teams to accomplish that feat reached the postseason.
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, Buffalo, now 12-6-2, cut the deficit to one with Jake McCabe's goal at 14:52 into the first and tied it 12:58 into the third when Rasmus Dahlin hammered home a rebound by crashing the net.
Backup goalie Linus Ullmark stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced.
As with each victory during this early-season success, the Sabres achieved yet another minor milestone. The Sabres again started slow, giving the Wild room in the first period. Zach Parise scored four minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead, and Matthew Dumba's slap shot beat Ullmark for a power-play goal less than four minutes later.
Pominville back on top: Housley moved Pominville back to the Sabres' top line in the third period. Pominville replaced Sam Reinhart early in the third period, reuniting what was the NHL's top line.
Second-period onslaught: After going more than nine minutes without a shot, the Sabres had six in under four minutes during another second-period rally. Jack Eichel made a behind-the-back pass to find Reinhart wide open in front of the net but Dubnyk made the stop.
Buffalo's finest chance came without registering a shot on goal. Moments after getting caught joining the rush, Dahlin sprung Conor Sheary for a breakaway with a pass through the neutral zone, but Sheary's shot went wide.
Although the Wild failed to take advantage on two odd-man rushes, the Sabres were only outshot, 12-11, in the second period. Ullmark kept the deficit at one goal by stopping Jason Zucker on a breakaway only 2:21 into the second.
The Rasmus Show: Dahlin again showed why he's regarded as a generational talent. The 18-year-old received a drop pass from Kyle Okposo and skated through the circle before finding McCabe wide open with a perfect backdoor pass through traffic.
McCabe one-timed the puck into the open net to cut the deficit to one 14:52 into the second period. The assist was Dahlin's eight of the season and came only a few minutes after his decision to join the rush nearly led to a third Minnesota goal.
Slow start: Despite the goal, Buffalo was outshot 18-9 in the first period. Remember, the Jets held a 12-4 advantage after the first period Friday night.
341: Parise's goal four minutes into the first period was the 341st of his career, passing Dave Christian for the most all-time by a Minnesota-born player. Parise, who missed the Wild's game Thursday because of an illness, capitalized when Zach Bogosian turned the puck over near the Sabres' bench.
Bogosian thought Dahlin would be there to carry the pass through the neutral zone, but Dahlin climbed over the wall for a line change, allowing Parise to intercept the pass and beat Ullmark for the 1-0 lead.
0-for-14: Minnesota's power play overwhelmed the Sabres in the first period, as powerfully illustrated by Dumba's power play goal. His one-timed slap shot went over Ullmark's glove hand for the 2-0 lead at 7:45 into the period, ending Buffalo's streak of 14 consecutive penalties killed.
More changes: In addition to inserting Casey Nelson for Nathan Beaulieu, Housley moved Tage Thompson to third line left wing while bumping Patrik Berglund down with Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons on the fourth line.
Again, Dahlin and Bogosian were paired together.
Homecoming: Casey Mittelstadt, named Minnesota's Mr. Hockey as a high school senior at nearby Eden Prairie in 2017, was the first Sabres player on the ice for warmups and skated one lap alone while his teammates remained on the bench. The gesture was met by cheers from Mittelstadt's family and friends.
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) November 17, 2018
Next: The Sabres traveled to Pittsburgh following the game, where they'll have an off day Sunday. They'll hold a morning skate at PPG Paints Arena ahead of a 7 p.m. puck drop Monday against the Penguins.