OPINION: Sabres worked hard and smart to beat Montreal

Buffalo will try to make it two-straight wins on Saturday in Detroit
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Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres broke a four-game losing streak on Friday night with a dominating 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

It wasn’t going great after 20 minutes, because you just can’t give up 15 shots in a period to a team like Montreal. Buffalo got out of it with a 1-1 tie, but for the next 37 minutes, they gave up a total of seven shots.

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Tage Thompson’s second goal of the night was just a complete picture of what he’s become.

Canadiens defenseman Alex Romanov absolutely hammered him at center ice, but Thompson bounced right up, and you could tell he was furious. Thompson went straight to the net, while Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner were on the forecheck. The group was able to convert Skinner’s pass into Thompson's eighth goal in 10 games.

The best part of the goal was Thompson, after scoring, staring down Romanov. Sabres head coach Don Granato enjoyed it.

“You love it when you see it, and when you back it up," Granato said following the win. "He had both components, so yes, I do love what I saw there.”

I thought Friday night was Skinner’s best game in three years. He was hard on pucks, he caused turnovers, he earned two assists and even hustled back to break up, what looked like, a really good scoring chance for Montreal.

Yes, I understand it was his turnover that led to the Habs' only goal, but I would never get on a player for that play. He got the puck in front of Dustin Tokarski and simply fanned on his pass. It happens. It wasn’t from a lack of effort of being dumb, or anything other than he misfired.

Tokarski came in and played the final 40 minutes against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. He didn’t give up a goal until very late when the Bruins were on a five-minute power play. That means in his last 100 minutes in goal, he’s given up just two goals and made 49 saves. That’s a 1.20 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage.

Overall, Tokarski is 4-4-2 this season with a 3.05 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

For me, he has to be the starter on Saturday in Detroit against the Red Wings. It doesn’t matter that it’s games on back-to-back nights, the Sabres simply can no longer put Aaron Dell in net.

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On Nov. 6, the Red Wings came into Buffalo riding a four-game losing streak. With seven minutes left in regulation time, Buffalo was in complete control, leading the game, 3-1. The Sabres hadn’t given up a scoring chance in over a period, and this is the game that you can point to where all the problems started.

This is where the Sabres fell apart and gave up goals in bunches.

Tyler Bertuzzi netted two goals in a 1:30 span to tie the game at 3-3, and then made the pass to help win it in overtime. That was three goals given up in the last nine minutes of the game.

Bertuzzi has scored just one goal since then, and hasn't scored in eight games. The Red Wings beat the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, breaking a four-game losing streak. Detroit has lost five-of-seven games.

Alex Nedeljkovic has played in four-straight games. He’s 5-3-3 this season with a 2.76 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

Thomas Greiss is 4-6-0 this year with a 3.41 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Greiss was pulled in his last start, and has allowed eight goals in his last 99 minutes of work.

Red WIngs captain Dylan Larkin has been red-hot with six goals in six games, and has 10 in 17 games.

Lucas Raymond leads the Wings in scoring with 20 points in 21 games.

If Buffalo can get out of Detroit with a regulation win, it’ll put them just one point behind Detroit in the Atlantic Division.

Join myself and Brian Koziol for pregame coverage on WGR starting at 6 p.m. EST when we’ll be joined by Don Granato.

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