WINNIPEG — Alex Tuch was pretty confident he could set up Tage Thompson for a goal on Thursday. He was right.
The Buffalo Sabres forward skated toward the side of the net and then quickly passed the puck back to Thompson for a one-timer that beat Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
Thompson's 34th goal of the season helped the Sabres beat the Jets 3-2 to extend their win streak to five games.
“He’s always ready for the puck, so when you can find him in an open area ... he’s going to bury it,” Tuch said.
Thompson had a goal and assist to stretch his point streak to six games, collecting three goals and seven assists in that span.
Owen Power and Victor Olofsson also scored for the Sabres (26-19-3). Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin each had a pair of assists.
Eric Comrie stopped 19 shots for Buffalo, which was playing its third game of a four-game road trip and is 5-0-1 in its last six outings. It’s the team’s second five-game win streak this season.
Nate Schmidt and Pierre-Luc Dubois scored late third-period goals for the Jets (31-18-1), who are 2-4-0 in their last six games.
“We didn’t really get out of our zone very well tonight,” Schmidt said. “I don’t think we had a lot of times where we had the puck on our stick and making the play to get out of the zone. Had a lot of times where we just weren’t confident with it.”
Hellebuyck made 33 saves for Winnipeg, which began a three-game homestand.
Despite having a pair of power plays in the scoreless first period, the Jets were outshot 13-6 and lost 14 of the period’s 16 faceoffs.
Winnipeg did get a good opportunity four minutes into the second period on a three-on-one, but the Jets made too many passes and forward Nikolaj Ehlers could only manage a soft shot on net.
“When you start out trying to make those passes and they don’t work and you continue trying to do that, it’s not a good look,” Ehlers said. “And that’s when you’ve got to start trying to play a little simple.”
Power opened the scoring at 10:32 of the second with his third goal in as many games. He didn’t score in his first 42 games this season, but is now the first rookie defenceman to record a three-game goal streak with the Sabres.
Buffalo’s first pick and the first selection overall in the 2021 NHL draft, Power was praised by his teammates and head coach Don Granato.
“Owen is pretty amazing. Obviously, three goals in a row. I mean, it’s impressive at his age,” Granato said.
“The beauty of it is Dahlin sees him doing things that Dahlin can add to his game, and he’s sitting there watching (Dahlin) and he adds to his game right away.”
Thompson made it 2-0 at 14:15.
Tuch’s assist on the goal gave him three goals and six assists over a seven-game point streak, the second-longest point run in his career.
Buffalo outshot Winnipeg 28-11 over two periods.
Olafsson boosted the visitors’ lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal at 10:30 of the third period.
Skinner assisted on the goals by Olafsson and Thompson, running his point streak to six games with two goals and six assists.
Schmidt helped his team avoid a shutout with a power-play goal that went under Comrie at 15:14.
Dubois halved the deficit with 42 seconds left when he notched his 22nd goal of the season. The Jets pulled Hellebuyck, but couldn’t send the game to overtime.
“We’ll get a lot more consistent with our play when we stop being so stubborn with the puck,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said. "We’ll play a lot faster, and when you’re playing fast it’s a lot more fun and you’ll be a lot more consistent.
"We’re slowing ourselves down and making it too easy for the opposition by our puck management.”
Dahlin’s pair of assists gave the blueliner a career-high 55 points in 47 games this season. He put up 53 points in 80 games last season.
Dahlin, who has 41 assists, also became the second Buffalo defenceman to reach the 40-assist mark in fewer than 50 games. John Van Boxmeer accomplished the feat in 38 games in 1981-82.
Thompson’s goal and his assist on Power’s marker tied his career best for points with 68.
Jets: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Sabres: Play the Wild in Minnesota on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press