Sabres score 3 in first, hang on to beat Minnesota 3-2

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Brian Gionta had a goal and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres scored three times in the first period and hung on to beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 Tuesday night.

Jamie McGinn and Rasmus Ristolainen also scored for Buffalo, which won its second straight after losing six in a row. Linus Ullmark made 28 saves.

Ryan Suter and Thomas Vanek scored for Minnesota.

For the first time in a nine-game span, a Buffalo goaltender made consecutive starts.

But it also could be Ullmark's final start for the Sabres. Robin Lehner, out since the season opener with a high ankle sprain, is expected to rejoin the team later this week after a conditioning stint with AHL Rochester. Ullmark would likely be sent down.

Ullmark tried to make that decision tougher with his second straight strong outing after a career-high tying 42-save performance in Sunday's 4-2 win in Winnipeg. In his last seven starts, Ullmark has allowed only 15 goals — four were in one start — but is 3-4 as the Buffalo offense struggled.

He was at his best in the second period when Minnesota had 11 of the period's first 12 shots.

The Wild finally broke through on Suter's fluky short-handed goal at 12:57.

He carried the puck into the Buffalo zone and his high backhand attempt from the right circle was stopped by Ullmark. However, the puck popped up in the air, off the crossbar and off the goaltender's back before bouncing across the line to make it 3-1.

Ullmark later stopped Jason Zucker twice at the end of a 4-on-2 rush to keep the two-goal Buffalo lead.

With Minnesota's goalie pulled, Vanek scored with 51.8 seconds left in the game, and Ullmark stopped Zach Parise on the doorstep before the period expired.

Minnesota, which won 2-1 at division-leading Dallas Saturday but played a clunker in a 2-1 home loss to New Jersey Sunday, wanted to get off to a fast start and dictate play against a team with the second-fewest points in the league.

It didn't work out that way.

McGinn gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, poking a rebound behind Devan Dubnyk. The play started with Evander Kane fighting off Jared Spurgeon in the left corner and cycling out to the slot where he put a backhand on net. Suter was a step late in clearing McGinn from beside the net.

A long wrist shot from Ristolainen beat Dubnyk at 17:30. Gionta scored 20 seconds later when he tipped a shot from Josh Gorges into the Minnesota net for the Sabres third goal of the period.

In its previous 42 games, Buffalo had just 17 first-period tallies.

NOTES: This is the third straight season Minnesota has played Buffalo in its 43rd game. Last year's contest was Dubnyk's first with the Wild: a 7-0 win that began a 28-9-3 finish to the season. ... Wild C Ryan Carter missed the game with a right hand injury. ... Buffalo D Mark Pysyk, recalled Monday from a three-game minor league rehab stint, sat out. Out since Nov. 17 with broken bone in his foot, he's expected to return Friday when the Sabres are home against Boston.