The curse of the Sabres might be over.
I'm not willing to give it more than a “might,” but if Buffalo continues to refuse a rebuild and the Sharks maintain their depth, we can be relatively optimistic there will be more meetings like this, where the Sharks beat the Sabres 4-1, between these two teams.
So what is different between the last time these teams met, when the Sharks lost 5-4 in overtime, and now?
Momentum seemed to be a major factor. The Sharks ran out of steam in the third period in their last meeting while the Sabres lit up and posted a major comeback. This time around, the Sharks never took their foot off the gas.
Jack Eichel scored just over a minute into the first period. Sorensen's game-tying goal got waived off. It wasn't an ideal opening period, except that the Sharks out-played the Sabres. They had a season-high twenty shots on goal.
The Sharks took that first period and refused to let it weigh on them.
Though special teams weren't a major factor with regards to scoring, they did a lot for momentum. After the Sabres killed the first two penalties, Joe Pavelski scored a power-play goal in the second to tie the game. The Sharks only took one penalty to the Sabres’ three, limiting the deadly effects of the best power play in the league. Because of the that, the Sharks were able to sustain pressure in the Sabres’ end and never let them regain a lead.
The play of the night was the game-winning goal, coming from...Jack Eichel?
The puck bounced off Eichel's skate and scored five hole on Lehner. The goal was credited to Micheal Haley, his 10th point of the season and first ever game winning goal.
It's hard to move on from a play like that. The same team that fought off 20 shots in the first period allowed two more even-strength goals, another from Pavelski and a one from Logan Couture.
This was Pavelski’s second two-goal game in a row, as well as a two-point night for Joe Thornton. Even though he wasn’t on the score sheet, Jannik Hansen has lit a fire under that top line. Every game, that line gets better.
At the end of the day, this was a game the Sharks deserved to win. This late in the season, losing to teams that are out of play-off contention is unacceptable. The Sharks out-played the Sabres for the entire sixty minutes. That's the kind of play they're capable of and they need to continue to maintain it.
Especially the next time the Sabres are in town. Maybe then I'll say the curse is officially over.