SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres are off to a start nobody saw coming.
Zemgus Girgensons scored with 7:45 left and the Sabres continued their season-opening hot streak with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist for Buffalo (7-1-1), which is coming off its sixth straight losing season.
“Now we have to build on it,” Sabres forward Jeff Skinner said. “It’s one of those things where whatever our record was after these nine games, the goal’s gonna be the same. We’ve got to improve, we’ve got to get better, we’ve got to keep finding ways to win.”
A fortuitous bounce set up Girgensons’ first goal of the season. He collected the puck after Johan Larsson’s shot bounced off Kyle Okposo’s back and had a clear look at the net. A turnover by Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson set up the sequence.
The Sabres are looking to end an eight-year playoff drought. They have the Eastern Conference’s best record.
Sabres coach Ralph Krueger has gotten his players to buy into his “small picture” approach to try to keep a fast game simple.
“It’s just about constant improvement here,” Krueger said. “Anything else will just distract us from what’s happening.”
San Jose had a three-game winning streak snapped after opening the season with four straight losses.
“Give them credit,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “They’ve got a good record for a reason. They’re finding ways to win games. Their goalie made a couple of huge saves at the right time for them or the momentum could have shifted.”
The Sharks’ Marcus Sorensen tied it at 3 with his second goal of the season early in the third. Brent Burns’ shot bounced off Sorensen’s skate and past goalie Linus Ullmark.
Sorensen’s goal was the third between the two teams in the span of just over two minutes.
It followed Tomas Hertl’s third goal of the season for San Jose, and Skinner’s fifth for Buffalo.
“I think (Sorensen’s) goal could’ve deflated us and it didn’t,” Krueger said. “I’m really, really happy with the reaction of the group on the bench and the energy that was there. Nothing but a thought about trying to win the game.”
Casey Mittelstadt scored late in the second period to put Buffalo ahead 2-1. The center redirected Henri Jokiharju’s shot from just inside the blue line for his fourth goal and third in two games.
Johansson slipped a wrist shot past Martin Jones for the game’s first goal at 12:10 of the first period.
The Sabres have scored first in eight of their first nine games.
The Sharks tied it on Timo Meier’s power-play goal late in the first.
Ullmark, who had 29 saves, started in place of Carter Hutton, who recorded shutouts in his last two games.
Jones had 31 saves.
“We made some mistakes that ended up in our net,” Sharks center Logan Couture said. “We needed to tighten up on that fourth goal.”
Sabres: Hutton is expected to start Tuesday’s game against San Jose. Hutton is 5-2-1 against San Jose with a .945 save percentage and a 1.74 goals-against average. … Sharks F Noah Gregor was recalled from the San Jose Barracuda and made his NHL debut. … F Lukas Radil (illness) is day-to-day. … D Radim Simek (knee) is expected to travel with the Sharks on their five-game road trip. … It is not known if D Dalton Prout (upper body) will join San Jose on the trip.
Buffalo hosts San Jose on Tuesday night in the second game of a home-and-home set.