OPINION: Dahlin leads Sabres to much-needed win in Chicago

The Sabres' All-Star defenseman has stepped up with the injury to Tage Thompson

Chicago, Ill. (WGR 550) – Rasmus Dahlin played like a man possessed Friday night in Winnipeg, and nothing changed for him on Sunday in the Buffalo Sabres' 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dahlin played 28:59 and had a goal and two assists in the win.

Erik Johnson netted the game-winning goal in the third period, but it was Dahlin, along with Casey Mittelstadt along the right wing wall that kept the play going. Johnson was on the left wing side, and he found room over the shoulder of Blackhawks goalie Petr Mrazek.

At 35-years-old, Johnson has seen a lot, but he hasn’t seen many like Dahlin. He thinks the 23-year-old will be the Sabres' next captain.

"I have all the time in the world for 'Ras'. I love him," said Johnson following Sunday's 3-2 win in Chicago. "He’s a great kid and an unreal player. He wants to win, and does all the right things. The future captain of the team, for sure. To see him take charge like he has, I mean he’s been good all year, but I think the last couple of games you’ve seen him be great. He’s a top-five D in the league, and when he’s on, there’s not many as good as him."

With Tage Thompson out, Dahlin knows he’ll be counted on to step up.

"I just told myself to go out there and don’t think, just play off my instincts and compete," said Dahlin following Sunday's win. "That’s all I can do right now, and sometimes it’s not pretty, but sometimes it works."

Right before Dahlin opened the scoring on Sunday, he set up Zach Benson all alone in front for, what looked like, his first NHL goal. Mrazek had other ideas, but Benson kept going. He returned the favor, and sent Dahlin in down the slot, and the Sabres had the lead.

Benson had another good game, and can play one more game before general manager Kevyn Adams has to make a decision to either keep him in the NHL or send him back to juniors.

If the last two games mean something, Benson will be apartment hunting in Buffalo soon.

The play Dahlin made on the Sabres' power play goal was superb. Jeff Skinner found an open hole, and Dahlin saw him just at the right time to give him an open goal.

Buffalo started the game off well, and had a good first period. What took them off their game was taking two penalties in the first 4:19 of the second period.

"It took a little bit of the wind out of our sails, and we definitely lost a little bit of our footing there," Johnson said. "But we look at it that we’re in here after two, 2-2, and we had a chance to get for sure a point, if not two and we hadn’t played our best. So let’s go out and do it."

The players didn’t agree with me, but even though it’s only November, they had lost three-straight and were four points out of a playoff spot, and had the second-worst points percentage in the Eastern Conference. Falling way behind early in the season is just the recipe for another non-playoff year.

They should have won in Winnipeg on Friday night, and they couldn’t let another two points slip away.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was, again, solid in net, but he saved his best for last when the 'Hawks pulled their goalie for a 6-on-5 advantage. Just as the clock was striking zero, Chicago had a great chance right in the crease, and Luukkonen made the big save at the big time.

Buffalo needed to get some key guys going, and in this game they did. Mittelstadt had two points, and Skinner had that huge power play goal.

The team has Monday off before practicing on Tuesday, and then leaving for Washington to finish out their three-game road trip.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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