BUFFALO, N.Y. – Tim Connolly wasn’t aware that the Los Angeles Kings owned the NHL’s top penalty-killing unit. It didn’t matter.
Connolly snapped a third-period tie with a power-play goal to help lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-2 win over the Kings on Friday night.
The goal was Buffalo’s second of the game with the man advantage against Los Angeles, which had allowed just seven man-advantage goals and killed 90 per cent of opposition power plays coming in.
The Sabres entered having converted only two of their previous 26 power-play opportunities over their last seven games, and were ranked 26th in the league.
“We just wanted to work hard, be available to each other and get pucks to the net,” said Connolly, who snapped a nine-game goalless drought. “A lot of the games are decided by special teams. Ours are getting better.”
Thomas Vanek added a power-play goal and assist, and Andrej Sekera and Jochen Hecht also scored for the Sabres (8-10-3), who have won five of seven after a 3-9-2 start.
“Our power play hasn’t been the greatest,” Vanek said. “We’ve had chances, but we just haven’t buried them. Tonight we were able to.”
The Sabres’ penalty-killing was just as impressive, turning aside all five of Los Angeles’ opportunities, including 46 seconds of a two-man advantage late in the first period.
Ryan Miller finished with 34 saves for Buffalo, and was a primary reason why the game was tied 2-2 after 40 minutes. The Kings held a 27-14 shots advantage after two periods.
“I didn’t like the way we started,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “They have a big, strong team that can shoot, and I knew we had to ramp up our intensity.”
The Pacific Division-leading Kings (12-6) are in the midst of their worst slump of the season. After winning six straight, they’ve lost three in a row and have been outscored 8-2 in the third period of those three defeats.
“I don’t think we’re playing every phase of our game right now,” said backup goalie Jonathan Bernier, who made 22 saves in his second start in three games, and sixth overall behind Jonathan Quick. “We just have to go back to the basics.”
Dustin Brown and Wayne Simmonds scored for Los Angeles.
“We missed our opportunities in the first period on the power play,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “We had a 5-on-3 and a couple of good looks that we weren’t able to score on. On their power plays, they just kept shooting pucks, and had bodies around our net.”
Connolly pushed home a loose puck in the crease 2:10 into the third to put Buffalo ahead 3-2. Hecht increased the lead to two goals with a one-timer from the top of the left circle with 4:39 remaining.
Brown gave Los Angeles a 1-0 lead with his ninth of the season 4:57 into the first period. Off the rush, he received a pass from Anze Kopitar and let go a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Miller.
Sekera’s shot from the lower portion of the left circle tied it just 37 seconds into the second period.
The Kings regained the lead when Simmonds wheeled around and wristed a shot from the slot into the top left corner at 8:25 of the second to make it 2-1.
Buffalo tied it with 4:38 left in the second on Vanek’s power-play goal.
NOTES: Sabres captain Craig Rivet returned after missing five games because of food poisoning. It was his 899th NHL game. … Buffalo began a four-game homestand, while the Kings started a four-game road trip in which they’ll play only Eastern Conference teams. … Sabres C Derek Roy extended his point streak to seven games with an assist on Vanek’s goal. Kopitar stretched his to six games. … Kings RW Justin Williams had his career-high, 11-game point streak snapped. … Los Angeles is 1-10-0-1 in Buffalo since the 1993-94 season.