‘That is how I play’ | Energy scores 1st NHL purpose in win over Devils

NEWARK, NJ- Owen Power watched from the defensive zone as Jeff Skinner engaged in a 1-on-1 rush at the opposite end of the ice, then quickly made the decision to join him.

Power beat his own defender down the ice, caught a pass from Skinner and scored his first NHL goal to provide added cushion for the Sabers during the third period of a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils inside Prudential Center on Thursday.

It was the latest in a long line of examples of the defenseman’s propensity for joining the offense through five NHL games.

“I wouldn’t say I was pressing to get my first goal,” Power said. “I think that’s just how I play.”

Video: BUF@NJD: Power nets a slick pass from Skinner for 1st

His teammates wouldn’t have it any other way. Skinner collected the puck from the net while the other four skaters on the ice mobbed Power along the boards. Pandemonium ensued on the bench.

“They want to see him, they support him in joining the rush, in jumping on offense,” Sabers coach Don Granato said.

The mindset stems from an atmosphere within the Sabers’ dressing room that embraces individuality, on and off the ice. Granato and general manager Kevyn Adams delivered that message to Power upon welcoming him to the team in Tampa earlier this month.

That same night, alternate captains Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons took their new teammate to dinner and reinforced it.

“I think we have a group that you can come in here and be yourself and that’s it,” Okposo said. “You don’t have to try and be anybody that you’re not.

“Owen is 19 years old and just finding his way and seems like a quiet guy. Very, very humble, great head on his shoulders, and just seems like he’s taking everything in like a sponge. He’s just observing everything, and that’s fine. All you have to do is be yourself in this group.”

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: That puck����sa keeper. #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/EhrtAMp65v

It’s the sort of culture that can give a rookie, less than two weeks removed from signing his entry-level deal, the confidence to make a play like Power made on Thursday.

The Sabers had seen their three-goal lead cut to one early in the third period. They chose to stay aggressive, which prompted Tage Thompson to immediately look up ice upon receiving the puck in the defensive zone. He delivered a stretch pass to Skinner, who was nearing the opposite blue line.

Skinner fell to the ice as he attempted to deke past his defender, PK Subban. Still, he managed to regain possession and deliver a pass to Power as the defenseman sped by to his left.

“I was hoping he’d see me and lucky enough, he saw me,” Power said. “It was a good play.”

Video: POSTGAME: Power

Power was touted for his size and poise upon being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in last summer’s draft. His mobility from him on offense at 6-foot-6 has caught teammates off-guard.

He pinched to the half wall on the play that led to his first NHL point, an assist on an Alex Touch goal during his home debut. He circles the offensive zone during cycles and sometimes enters as the first man in on the forecheck.

“I’ve watched him a few times just when he’s played in Minnesota and other things, but I didn’t know that he moved that well and was that offensive,” Casey Mittelstadt commented this week. “It’s been a really, really pleasant surprise for me. I’ve been super impressed. I think everyone has.”

Granato sensed his players were eager for that talent to translate to a goal. They got it Thursday.

“There’s a little bit of fan in each guy in that locker room,” Granato said. “As they get excited and they get to know him and they see what a good person he is, he adds to it.”

odd bounce pay off

The Sabers and Devils were tied 0-0 through 30 minutes despite a wealth of chances at both ends. It all changed with a shot from the neutral zone.

Okposo scored a shorthanded goal from just beyond the offensive blue line, igniting a run of three Sabers goal in a span of 6:05 during the second period.

Video: Power nets 1st NHL goal in a 5-2 win over the Devils

Alex Tuch added a second shorthanded goal 47 seconds after Okposo, backhanding a rebound from along the goal line after Victor Olofson had been stopped on a breakaway. Rasmus Dahlin capped the run with a broken-stick one-timer, this one shortly after a New Jersey power play had expired.

“Well, I just picked my spot there,” Okposo deadpanned. “No, just a fluky one. Just a sinker. Those happens sometimes and it dove hard. And then we get another one on the penalty kill, Tuchy’s there. Then we get the third one and the floodgates just seemed to open. We just stuck with our game.”

up next

The Sabers host the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. Tickets are available here.

Coverage on MSG begins at 12:30 pm The puck drops at 1.

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