After ‘gritty’ win, Sabres set to take on Flames

It took a third try and a rally back from a blown lead before the Buffalo Sabres finally were able to celebrate their first victory of the season.

The Sabres now will try to gather momentum when they play host to the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.

The Sabres, who have yet to find their offensive stride, came through with a solid defensive game, and an overtime winner, to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Tuesday. Buffalo needs more of the same against a Calgary squad that arrives on the heels of consecutive losses.

“That was big to get that win, especially after giving up a goal with seven seconds left,” said Sabres forward Dylan Cozens, who netted the game winner 1:46 into the extra period. “That would be frustrating to lose that game, but those are the types of games we need to win; low-scoring, gritty games and games where we just find a way.”

The victory appeared straightforward, until Tampa Bay’s Brandon Hagel scored for the second time at 19:53 of the third period. Despite the late surprise, there was no sense of panic.

“I felt our guys had that sense of objective the entire game but had to fight really hard and really late to get it,” Buffalo head coach Don Granato said. “I told them they earned it. They deserved the win by the effort, by the focus and circumstances throughout. Lots of different challenges, but they plowed through it.”

Granato had no update on the status of defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, who left the game early in the third period due to an upper-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day.

The Flames arrive on the heels of Monday’s 3-2 shootout loss in Washington in which they surrendered a 2-0 lead just over 17 minutes into the game. Calgary opened its five-game road trip with a 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday after defeating the Winnipeg Jets in its season opener at home.

The Flames, who have scored first in all three games so far, were by far the better team in Washington, outshooting the Capitals 40-23. Calgary led going into the third period of the Penguins clash before watching it go off the rails after Pittsburgh tallied twice in the first minute of the final frame.

“I think it was our best game this year,” captain Mikael Backlund said of the game against Washington. “Everyone chipped in and played well. I thought we created a lot of chances. They got a couple of quick goals in the second (period), but other than that, I thought we were the better team. We’ll take the point. Again, it’s a process, but we’re trending in the right direction.”

Despite their record, the Flames have plenty going for them. They have scored one power-play goal in all three outings, been perfect on the penalty kill thanks to strong goaltending from Jacob Markstrom and were in position to win every outing.

Even the way his team regrouped, after the Capitals scored a pair of goals just over three minutes apart to draw even, was a positive for coach Ryan Huska.

“You’re on the road, you know there’s going to be a little momentum shift from time to time, and I thought we stayed with it (against the Capitals), where in Pittsburgh we didn’t,” Huska said.