SAN JOSE – Another multi-goal effort from the captain helped put an end to the Sharks’ inexplicable troubles with the Sabres.
Joe Pavelski scored twice for the second straight game, as the Sharks ended a five-game home losing to Buffalo on Tuesday at SAP Center, 4-1. It was the Sharks’ first regulation win of any kind over the Sabres since Jan. 23, 2010.
Pavelski’s first goal tied the game at one apiece in the second period, while his second score gave the Sharks a two-goal cushion. He has seven goals in his last five games and now leads the team with 28, one more than Brent Burns.
The game-winner, though, came from an unlikely source.
In the final minute of the second period of a 1-1 game, Micheal Haley got a little piece of Cody Franson’s short pass to Jack Eichel in front of the net, and the Sabres’ forward ended up kicking the puck through Robin Lehner’s five-hole with less than a minute to play in the middle frame. Haley was credited with this second of the season.
Pavelski added third period insurance. Dylan DeMelo’s point shot hit Josh Gorges in front of the net, and Pavelski was there to whip it home at 5:28 to make it 3-1.
Just before the goal, Martin Jones denied Eichel on a breakaway, sealing his five-hole and keeping the Sabres from getting what would have been the equalizer.
Another fluky play pushed the Sharks’ lead to 4-1. Joel Ward slid the puck over to Logan Couture, and as Couture and Lehner both extended their sticks out to poke at the loose puck, it popped up into the air and landed on the other side of the goal line at 14:47.
The Sharks have won four of their last five games, improving to 3-1-0 on their season-long six-game homestand. They are 7-2-0 in their last nine, and have a nine-point lead on the Pacific Division.
Kicking off a four-game road trip, the Sabres lost their fifth straight away from home.
The Sharks poured 20 shots on goal in the first, a season high for most in a period, but trailed after the opening frame. Pavelski gave the puck away to Gorges at the point, and Matt Moulson pushed the rebound of Gorges’ blast over to Eichel for an easy score just 1:10 into the game.
Lehner made a number of stellar saves to keep the Sharks off of the board, coming way out of his crease to turn away a Burns wrister, and later preventing Couture’s open look on a two-on-one from beating him with less than three minutes to go in the first.
The Sharks were also denied what originally looked like a Marcus Sorensen goal, but it was correctly ruled that Burns had pushed Lehner out of the way while taking the puck the net before Sorensen slid the puck across the line.
San Jose continued to press in the second, though, and was finally rewarded on the power play. Pavelski hammered in a one-timer from the slot on a backhanded feed from Couture at 11:47 to knot the score at 1-1.
Entering with a 2-for-24 stretch in their previous seven games, with both coming against Washington, the Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play. Pavelski has seven power play goals on the season.
The penalty kill was 2-for-2, and is 11-for-11 in the last four games.
Perhaps benefiting from added rest, Jones secured the win with 21 saves, and has allowed two or fewer goals in seven consecutive starts. He’s 2-1-1 in his career against Buffalo.
Lehner has lost both of his career games against the Sharks, officially allowing four goals on 41 shots.
The Sharks made no changes to their lineup, as David Schlemko and Melker Karlsson remained out with lower body injuries.
Joe Thornton’s assist on Pavelski’s first goal was his 40th of the season. It is his 14th season reaching that mark.
The Sharks will conclude their regular season series with the Blues – a potential first round playoff opponent – on Thursday at SAP Center. St. Louis has won the first two, both in regulation, including a 4-0 shutout of the Sharks in San Jose on Jan. 14.
The homestand concludes with the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.