First, the Buffalo Sabres cracked the code against Dallas goalie Ben Bishop. A pair of second-period goals ended Bishop’s lengthy personal shutout streak against the Sabres.
Then, instead of defending a lead, the Sabres attacked while holding one. The strike-first mentality was a far cry from the way they would have played in previous years and it became the defining factor in a 4-0 win against the Stars on Monday at KeyBank Center.
Victor Olofsson’s power-play goal at 6:27 of the second period ended Bishop’s shutout stretch of 155 minutes, 57 seconds, which dated back to Jan. 12, 2017. Olofsson also became the first player in NHL history to score his first seven goals on the power play, and is second for the league lead in power-play goals behind Edmonton’s James Neal (six goals).
"It's obviously fun to have some kind of record, even if I want to get that 5-on-5 goal as well,” said Olofsson, who scored two power-play goals in six games last season with the Sabres. “I felt a lot better today, with my overall game."
Sam Reinhart gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead less than 12 minutes later on a shot from the slot off a pass from Olofsson on the right wing boards, as Jack Eichel went in to screen Bishop.
Yet instead of defending a two-goal lead in the third period, the Sabres (5-0-1) played aggressively, something that goalie Carter Hutton said his team may not have done last season.
“The terminology is, ‘safe is death,’ and we’d sit back,” said Hutton, who made 25 saves for his first shutout with the Sabres. “Teams are too fast and too good, especially when they press, right? So we’ve got to stay on the offense and be aggressive, and tonight’s a great example of that. We didn’t change the way we played in the third.”
Jeff Skinner, who gave the Sabres a 3-0 lead at 4:20 of the third, said the attack-first mindset has to become a consistent pursuit for the Sabres.
“The league’s too tight for you to sit back and let other teams dictate the play and let other teams come to you,” Skinner said. “For us, we have to be on the forecheck and we have to be on our toes. We were able to stick with it, for the most part, in that game.”
That’s also the kind of effort Sabres coach Ralph Krueger wants out of his team, regardless of the score or the location of the game.
“We want to maintain speed,” Krueger said. “We want to maintain puck speed. We want to maintain pressure on the opposition defensively. We didn't get the shots we could have taken (in the third period), but we definitely kept forechecking, and it's just part of who we want to be.
“Sabres hockey should run from beginning to end, no matter the score.”
But the Sabres had to first establish a lead. They had to get past Bishop, the Stars' veteran goalie who, prior to Monday, had Buffalo’s offense in a vise grip for more than 2 1/2 years.
Olofsson’s goal was one of 13 shots by the Sabres in the second period, after an ebb-and-flow first period in which the Sabres went more than five minutes between shots on Bishop (18 saves) and labored to organize themselves on their only power play, when Stars defenseman John Klingberg was called for hooking at 10:26.
The Stars didn’t fare much better in the first, going for more than 12 minutes between shots on goal.
Olofsson gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead less than seven minutes into the second on a one-timer from the right circle, seconds after he whiffed on a similar opportunity, and he assisted on Reinhart’s goal with 2:04 left in the period.
But the Sabres faced a final challenge: hold a two-goal lead.
Skinner and Marcus Johansson scored in the first 6:02 of the third, and the Sabres limited the Stars to a handful of quality scoring chances in the game, despite being outshot 12-3.
“We just kept on playing tonight,” Olofsson said. “We kept on playing and we didn’t fall back at all, and just played a simple game. It was really hard for Dallas to create anything, and we played a really smart game.”