Connor, Ehlers score 2 goals in Jets’ 7-4 win over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — High-octane offense continues to fuel the surging Winnipeg Jets.
Kyle Connor had two goals and an assist, Nikolaj Ehlers also scored twice, and the Jets defeated the Buffalo Sabres 7-4 on Tuesday night for their third straight victory.
The Central Division-leading Jets are 6-0-1 in their past seven games and have scored at least four goals in their past 13 victories.
“Everyone’s stepped up a little bit,” said Jets forward Blake Wheeler, who had two assists to extend his point streak to seven games.
“We’ve had some injuries and some guys have been given opportunities to play a little bit different role, a little bit bigger role, and done a good job.”
Patrik Laine and Dustin Byfuglien also scored for the Jets in the opener of a three-game road trip. Joel Armia added an empty-netter as the Jets tallied seven goals for the fourth time this season. Jacob Trouba and Mathieu Perreault each had two assists.
Winnipeg’s backup goaltender Steve Mason made 30 saves to earn a win for the first time in his past four starts.
“It was nice to have the goal support,” Mason said. “That made it a little easier for me to settle back in a rhythm.”
Jack Eichel had two goals and an assist and Ryan O’Reilly had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, who were playing at home for first time since Dec. 22.
Buffalo has lost five in a row and twice in five days against the Jets.
Jason Pominville also scored and Robin Lehner stopped 14 shots before getting pulled early in the second period after allowing a third goal.
“I got to be better,” Lehner said. “I take responsibility for this.”
Laine scored on a power play at 6:43 of the first to record his 100th NHL point, joining Toronto’s Auston Matthews as the second player from the 2016 draft to reach the milestone. It was Laine’s 19th goal of the season.
The Sabres tied the game when Eichel scored for the first time in five games late in the first period.
Byfuglien responded 49 seconds later for Winnipeg with a slap shot from just inside the blue line for his second of the season.
“You think you get momentum back and they get a goal,” Eichel said. “Obviously, shifts after a goal are important.”
Ehlers made it 3-1 less than two minutes into the second period, sending Lehner to the bench. Connor lifted one over the shoulder of Sabres backup goaltender Chad Johnson (16 saves) from the slot later in the period and Ehlers scored again midway through a four-minute power play a few minutes later to tie Laine for the team lead with 19 goals.
“They’ve scored more goals than their ages almost,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said.
Laine snapped a seven-game goal drought and Ehlers went eight games without a goal before Tuesday.
“We knew how many goals and how games we had without a goal,” Laine said. “Right away when we started to talk about it we both got goals so we should maybe talk about something like that more often.”
Winnipeg entered the game with the NHL’s second-ranked power play (25 percent) and has converted in six straight games.
Eichel set up O’Reilly for a power-play goal in the closing minutes of the second period.
Connor scored his 15th of the season from the slot in the early stages of the third.
After Pominville played the puck off the backboards for a goal, Eichel scored his 17th of the season to make it a two-goal game with 5:07 remaining.
Buffalo’s top defensive prospect Brendan Guhle made his season debut a day after being called up from Rochester, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. Guhle was promoted with defenseman Victor Antipin sidelined by an illness, and Rochester in the midst of a five-day break.
“We want Brendan to continue playing, so it’s a scenario where it’s probably for a couple of games here and then we’ll have our break,” Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said.
“He’s shown some great strides and he’s deserving of this call-up right now. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him at the American Hockey League level.”
Guhle was in the penalty box for hooking when the Jets scored their opening goal.
NOTES: Jets RW Patrik Laine recorded his 100th point in his 117th NHL game, becoming the fourth-fastest Finnish-born player to reach the milestone after Teemu Selanne (68 games), Jari Kurri (100 games) and Christian Ruuttu (114 games). ... Sabres C Jacob Josefson left the game after blocking a shot in the first period and did not return. ... Jets D Tyler Myers played in Buffalo for the first time since being traded to Winnipeg in 2015. Myers, the Sabres’ first-round pick in 2008, was injured during the Jets’ previous two visits. ... Jets LW Brandon Tanev (lower body) and C Adam Lowry (upper body) both skated Tuesday morning but did not play. ... Winnipeg is 7-0 with a 35-9 goal differential when playing a team for the second time in a week’s span this season.
Jets: Visit Chicago on Friday night.
Sabres: Host Columbus on Thursday night.
AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed to this story.
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