BUFFALO, N.Y. — Thanks to an influx of young talent, Sabres forward Marcus Foligno is pleased to see incremental signs of progress after Buffalo bottomed out the previous two seasons.
"Last year was last year, and it’s tough to compare because we’ve improved in a lot of areas," Foligno said, after having a goal and two assists in 6-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. "But it’s great to see that we’re headed in the right direction."
Though Buffalo has fallen out of the playoff hunt, the scoresheet is the latest indication of improvement for a rebuilding franchise coming off consecutive last-place finishes.
With 16 games remaining, Buffalo has 153 goals, which matches the team’s NHL-low total from last year. The Sabres have scored six or more three times this season, after doing so just twice over the previous two years combined.
"I think we can be better," rookie centre Jack Eichel said. "It’s really good to see that we’ve taken a step forward. … But I don’t think we should be satisfied with that."
Eichel scored his 18th of the season to snap a seven-game drought. Johan Larsson got the go-ahead goal with 9:31 left, and Nicolas Deslauriers, Rasmus Ristolainen and Evander Kane, with an empty-netter, also scored.
The Sabres improved to 10-0-2 in their past 12 home games against the Flames, with their last regulation loss a 3-1 defeat on March 15, 1996.
The loss extended the Flames’ skid to 0-6-1 and they dropped into last place in the Western Conference after provincial rival Edmonton vaulted ahead with a 4-0 win at Philadelphia.
"It’s been the same thing the past seven games now," defenceman Dougie Hamilton said.
"We’ve been taking too many penalties and gave up a lot of momentum and they score on the power plays," he added. "I think we’ve been talking about it and nobody’s really changed anything. So that’s probably the frustrating thing about it."
Hamilton and Sean Monahan each had a goal and an assist, and Mikael Backlund also scored for the Flames.
Calgary’s winless streak is its longest since going 0-7-1 in December 2014.
The Sabres took control after Monahan scored 3:56 into the third period to tie the game at 3.
Brian Gionta set up Larsson’s goal by pouncing on a loose puck to the left of the Flames net. Drawing two defenders to him, Gionta slipped a past to Larsson, who was alone in front and backhanded a shot over goalie Jonas Hiller’s left shoulder.
Eichel scored 3 minutes later to put Buffalo ahead 5-3 by snapping a shot through a crowd from the blue line that sneaked in just under the crossbar.
"We are a very undisciplined team right now," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "We put ourselves in a bad spot."
The game was tied at 1 before there were three goals — one short-handed, one on the power play and the third at even strength — in a span of 77 seconds late in the second period.
Foligno made a nifty move to step around Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie and score on a short-handed breakaway with 4:03 left in the frame.
Hamilton scored off the next faceoff by beating Robin Lehner on the short side with a shot from the right circle.
And then Zach Bogosian intercepted a weak Flames clearing attempt to set up Deslauriers, who snapped a shot from the left circle to beat Hiller on the short side and put Buffalo up 3-2.
"When you’re scoring, it’s a lot of fun," Foligno said. "I thought we needed that secondary scoring, and we got it."
NOTES: The Flames are carrying three goalies, leaving Nicklas Backstrom a scratch for the second straight game since being acquired in a trade with Minnesota on Monday. … With an assist on Hamilton’s goal, Giordano earned his 284th point and tied Alex Tanguay for 24th on the franchise list. … Buffalo went 1 of 8 on the power play.