BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jake Oettinger got a confidence boost from the way he competed against the rest of the NHL’s All-Stars in Toronto, and it carried over into his first start for Dallas after the break.
Oettinger stopped 47 shots, helping the Stars top the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight victory.
“I feel like I belonged out there. I didn’t feel like a fish out of water,” Oettinger said, referring to his All-Star experience that followed an opening four-month stretch of inconsistency.
“It was just such a fun weekend,” added Oettinger, who improved to 6-2 since missing 12 games with a lower-body injury. “But now it’s go time. I need to be better than I had been in the past, and ramp my game up. Tonight was a small step in the right direction.”
Sam Steel and Matt Duchene scored for Dallas, which was outshot 32-12 through two periods and 48-31 overall. Stars forward and Wisconsin native Joe Pavelski played his 1,300th game, becoming the seventh U.S.-born player to reach that career milestone, and 69th overall.
Tage Thompson scored for Buffalo, which blew its fourth chance of the season to win three straight. The Sabres haven’t won three straight since a three-game run spanning April 6-10 last season.
The Sabres showed their frustration on the ice, and muttered about them afterward, all because of Oettinger.
“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t getting frustrated,” said Casey Mittelstadt, whose snap shot from the left circle was turned aside by Oettinger just in time with 10 seconds remaining.
After he was stopped on a prime opportunity, Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin caught the puck that deflected off the netting above the boards, and then spiked it off the back of the goal.
“It’s not fun to not score when you have a chance, so that’s all I can say,” Dahlin said.
“I thought he was trying to throw it at me at first,” Oettinger said with a chuckle. “I got the best of him tonight. But, you know, I’m sure he’ll be trying to score me even harder next game.”
Buffalo goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 28 shots in an outing between well-rested teams that had both been off since Jan. 27.
Steel scored the go-ahead goal with 10:56 left in the second, and a little over three minutes after Thompson tied the game.
Craig Smith’s initial shot caught Luukkonen high on his chest, and the puck rolled down his right arm and fell at feet of Stars forward Radek Faksa, whose shot through the crease banked in off Steel’s skate.
Stars coach Pete DeBoer praised Oettinger for stealing a victory.
“I was hoping he’d go to the All-Star game and recognize that he belonged there, and he belonged with that group of players, and come back confident and reset for the stretch drive. That’s what we saw here tonight,” DeBoer said, before noting the rest of his team needs to be better.
“I don’t even know where to start. Let’s just concentrate on how good Jake was and let me worry about that tonight and tomorrow.”
Stars: Visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
Sabres: Host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl