For all that almost went wrong for the Buffalo Sabres in their home finale before the holiday break, they were able to snap a two-game losing streak and showed signs of progress on the second night of back-to-back games.
Rasmus Dahlin scored on the power play in the first period, and Jeff Skinner provided an insurance goal in the third to give the Sabres a 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night in KeyBank Center. Buffalo, 21-11-5 with 47 points, will remain in third place in the Atlantic Division with four days off.
It did not receive secondary scoring from the bottom three forward lines until Conor Sheary's empty netter and relied too much on goalie Linus Ullmark; however, the Sabres were able to beat one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. Anaheim outshot Buffalo, 40-33, including 14-3 in the third, and the Sabres killed two third-period penalties before Skinner scored his 26th goal of the season with 8:48 remaining in regulation.
Dahlin rebounded after a difficult game one night earlier in Washington, scoring his fourth goal of the season with assists from Rasmus Ristolainen and Jack Eichel. Anaheim's John Gibson made 31 saves. Ullmark has only one regulation loss this season.
Opening salvo: Mired in an 0-for-9 slump, the Sabres' power play finally broke through with Dahlin's wrist shot over Gibson's glove in the first period. It was Dahlin's first goal on home ice and the second in his past five games. It was only the third goal by a Buffalo defenseman in 12 games.
Rare air: Only three 18-year-old defensemen in NHL history have reached the 20-point mark faster than Dahlin: Phil Housley, Ray Bourque and Aaron Ekblad.
Defensive shuffle: Despite expressing optimism after a 2-1 loss in Washington on Friday, Housley changed his defensive pairings. Dahlin skated alongside Jake McCabe again, while Marco Scandella was paired with Zach Bogosian. Lawrence Pilut remained with Ristolainen.
52: The Sabres had 52 shots on goal and 75 shot attempts from the beginning of the loss to Washington through the first period against Anaheim.
Scoreless second: Neither team scored in the second period, despite Buffalo having two power plays and outshooting Anaheim, 15-10.
Chippy: The Ducks were annoyed with Skinner for much of the night. The Sabres' winger drew a pair of penalties, including a cross-checking call at the end of the first period. No penalty was worse than Jake Dotchin's at the end of the second period. Moments after Bogosian was called for tripping, Dotchin refused to leave for the locker room as he continued to jaw at Bogosian.
That was enough to earn Dotchin a 10-minute game misconduct, which left Anaheim with only five defensemen for the third period. Still, the Ducks began the third period on the power play since Dotchin was not assessed a minor penalty.
On the kill: By killing off three third-period penalties, the Sabres have allowed only one power-play goal in their last 27 opportunities. McCabe dove across the crease to prevent a goal early in the third period.
Gibson stands tall: Gibson was outstanding for the Ducks and was responsible for the deficit being only one goal through two periods. He stopped Eichel's rebound chance from the slot with 12:25 left in the second. Gibson stopped all 15 shots he faced in the second period.
Guhle down: Defenseman Brendan Guhle was sent to Rochester Saturday morning after posting a plus-1 rating in two games for the Sabres. Guhle, 21, was back in the Amerks' lineup Saturday, skating alongside Zach Redmond on the team's top pairing.
Injury update: Winger Jason Pominville did not play for a second consecutive game, but he skated for the second time in as many days. The 36-year-old was injured Tuesday when he collided with Ristolainen in the neutral zone. Housley said Pominville is "getting close" to returning.
Next: The Sabres have four days off for the holidays and will hold a morning skate Thursday in St. Louis ahead of an 8 p.m. game against the Blues in Enterprise Center.