Michael Raffl scored twice to end a 16-game goalless streak and Jake Oettinger made 38 saves as the Dallas Stars beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Sunday.
Raffl scored the game’s first goal midway through the first period, his first since Jan. 6, and added his sixth of the season late in the second period. It was the 33-year-old’s third multi-goal game in 560 NHL appearances.
“Scoring goals always feel nice,” Raffl said. “I think it’s nicer to get the win.”
Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov also scored for the Stars, who have points in seven of their last nine games (6-2-1). Dallas and Edmonton have 61 points each and are tied for the Western Conference’s second wild card.
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“We haven’t done anything yet, but I’d rather see us in the eighth spot than ninth or 10th,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said.
Cody Eakin ended a 33-game goalless streak and Tage Thompson also scored for the Sabres, who are 0-6-0 in their last six games and are headed for their 11th straight season of not qualifying for the playoffs. Forty-year-old Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots.
“That’s an absolute challenge to fight off frustration,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I can’t tell you I’m not frustrated, but I can’t act frustrated. Big difference.”
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Raffl, who signed as a free agent last July, deflected a shot from Radek Faksa just beyond the right circle for the game’s first goal at 15:43 of the first period. He scored at 16:16 of the second period for a 3-1 lead on a second-effort shot at the crease after Anderson initially stopped a shot from Tyler Seguin.
Hintz gave Dallas a 2-0 lead 6:34 into the second period, beating Anderson between the pads all alone on the doorstep for his team-high 23rd goal. Joe Pavleski assisted with a pass from the corner boards.
Gurianov deflected a shot from Esa Lindell 8:56 into the third period with 5 seconds left in a power play.
Thompson scored on a wrister from the right circle at 8:23 of the second period to pull the Sabres within 2-1, his eighth goal in the last eight games.
Eakin, who played five seasons with Dallas before going to Vegas in the 2017 expansion draft, connected on a 17-foot wrister at 14:02 of the third period. It was Eakin’s fourth goal of the season and first since Nov. 26.
With Raffl getting a buzz cut since Dallas’ previous games, teammates hid his helmet. That forced him to go out for warmups bareheaded. The last time he did that, he suffered a concussion during the game.
“Ever since then, I put my bucket back on,” Raffl said. “Today I had to; I didn’t show any weakness. It was kind of a scary moment, me walking out there.”
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The Sabres were outshot 9-0 during the game’s first 9 1/2 minutes and 18-6 during the first period. They outshot the Stars 24-5 in the third period to finish ahead 40-31 in shots.
“It took us a while to figure out how to play,” Granato said.
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Oettinger is 14-3-0 at home this season and 21-4-5 in two NHL seasons. He made his sixth straight start and 10th in Dallas’ last 11 games.
“He’s really athletic,” said Thompson, who played with Oettinger on U.S. junior teams. “He gets across the net really quick.”
Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin crumpled behind the Buffalo net midway through the first period after being hit by Seguin’s stick between the legs. Dahlin was helped to the bench but didn’t miss a shift. ... Pavelski has 20 points in his last 18 games and 898 career points. ... Dallas rookie defenseman Thomas Harley had the secondary assist on Hintz’s goal for his first career NHL point. ... Buffalo defenseman Henri Jokiharju missed his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury.
Sabres: At Toronto on Wednesday to complete a season-long five-game trip.
Stars: Host Los Angeles on Wednesday.