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Tage Thompson leads Buffalo Sabres to 4-1 win over Calgary Flames

CALGARY — The Buffalo Sabres salvaged a road trip and kept their faint playoff hopes alive with Sunday's 4-1 win over the host Calgary Flames. Tage Thompson led the Sabres (34-33-5) with a goal and an assist.
Buffalo Sabres forward Peyton Krebs (19) gets away from Calgary Flames forward Andrei Kuzmenko (96) during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Sunday, March 24, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — The Buffalo Sabres salvaged a road trip and kept their faint playoff hopes alive with Sunday's 4-1 win over the host Calgary Flames.

Tage Thompson led the Sabres (34-33-5) with a goal and an assist. Buffalo improved to 5-4-1 in its last 10 games and closed out a 2-3 road trip with a victory.

JJ Peterka scored the third-period game-winner and Peyton Krebs from nearby Okotoks, Alta., also scored for Buffalo. Thompson and defenceman Connor Clifton each contributed an empty-net goal.

The Sabres gave up five goals in the third period to the Oilers to fall 8-3 in Edmonton on Thursday.

"We had a game in Edmonton where we were going into the third tied and kind of let that one slip away and get away from us," Thompson said. "In a similar situation tonight and it was a good opportunity for us to respond and clean up the mistakes we made last (game).

"It's been a tough trip. Played a lot of good teams. I thought we played some really good hockey and had some stretches where not good enough, not happy. Good to head home with a win under out belt and keep that momentum going into our next one."

Buffalo goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 32 saves in the victory and assisted on Clifton's empty-netter.

Jonathan Huberdeau countered for Calgary (33-32-5) in their second loss in as many nights after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Canucks in Vancouver.

"I get disappointed about these last two games more so than anything because those were winnable games for us," Flames head coach Ryan Huska said. "We didn't find a way to get it done."

Flames starter Dustin Wolf turned away 25 of 27 shots in front of an announced 16,497 at the Saddledome to go 2-2 since his most recent call up from the American Hockey League.

Both Calgary and Buffalo were watching the last wild-card playoff spot in their respective conferences become distant.

With 10 games remaining in their regular season, the Sabres were six points back of the Washington Capitals holding down the last berth in the East. 

"In order to get there, we've got to take care of the next game," Thompson said. "Short-term mindset, too. A short memory. The loss in Edmonton, we can't dwell on that. We did a great job responding tonight."

Buffalo has finished outside the post-season the last 12 years.

With a dozen games remaining, the Flames were 12 points back of the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights in the final wild-card berth in the West.

The Flames both overhauled its back end and integrated new players this season with trades of defencemen Nikita Zadorov (Vancouver), Chris Tanev (Dallas) and Noah Hanifin (Vegas), which brought forwards Yegor Sharangovich and Andrei Kuzmenko and defenceman Daniil Miromanov to Calgary.

"We're making progress, but we're not consistent. That's the problem," Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington said. "In this league, if you're not consistent, every team can beat you."

Peterka's go-ahead goal at 11:04 of the third period was thanks to a heavy forecheck by the twin towers of Thompson and Alex Tuch, who are both over six-foot-four. Thompson stepped out from behind the net to feed Peterka in the slot.

Thompson extended his point streak to a season-high five games with three goals and four assists in that span.

Huberdeau's power-play goal at 10:35 of the second period knotted the score 1-1. Buffalo scored on its first shot of the game at 4:53 of the first period. 

Krebs, 23, scored his first goal since Jan. 11 for his fourth of the season. 

"It's just nice to score in general whether I'm here or anywhere else," Krebs said. "With my family here, it's special."


The Flames honoured forward Chris Simon before the game with a video montage and a moment of silence. 

The forward died March 18 at age 52 by what his family said was a suicide. Simon played two seasons in Calgary, including the Flames' run to the Stanley Cup final in 2004. He scored five goals during those playoffs. 


Calgary: Heads out on a two-game road trip starting Tuesday in Chicago.

Buffalo: Heads home to host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2024.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press