BUFFALO – In a 14-minute streak Tuesday, Sabers newcomer Anders Bjork erased the New York Islanders’ lead, scoring two goals.
First, Bjork redirected defenseman Colin Miller’s point shot past Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin at the end of the second period. Then Bjork scored in the right circle at 10:56 in the third period, tying a game the Sabers would win 4-3 in a shootout.
What do the two goals have in common? Bjork, 24, created them by tenaciously chasing the puck and keeping it in the New York zone.
On his first goal, Bjork intercepted Josh Bailey’s pass inside the blue line. In his second, the winger beat Andy Greene to a loose puck and moved it deep into the area.
“He was dynamic,” Sabers caretaker coach Don Granato said on a post-game Zoom call. “Reach for the pucks, put pressure on the pucks, hang on and have some pucks, and of course finish. He’s very talented and he’s getting more and more comfortable every day and he’s developing a chemistry and understanding our system and how we want to play.
“It all adds up and it’s fun to watch when that happens. And he’s a hell of a good kid and a teammate too.
Bjork capped the night by scoring the shootout winner, giving the Sabers their second straight victory over the stingy islanders of KeyBank Center.
Barely 13 games into his career with the Sabers, Bjork, who was in the Taylor Hall squad with the Boston Bruins last month, has been promoted to left wing on the front row. He will likely skate alongside center Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson in Thursday’s road competition against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
Bjork, having struggled with injuries and grown into a healthy player in Boston, welcomed a new opportunity in Buffalo. The Sabers targeted the American as a player they felt had an offensive advantage and could grow into a bigger role.
So far, the 6-foot, 197-pound Bjork has featured some of the form that earned him a 3-year, $ 4.8 million contract from the Bruins last year.
Bjork scored two goals and five points in 30 games for the Bruins earlier this season. He has already compiled three goals and six points with the Sabers.
“I’m climbing there, but there is still a lot to improve personally,” said Bjork. “I’m just trying to get better every day with the season coming to an end here, but I’m trying to get better and better for the rest of this year, and then hopefully continue that the next year.
“I’m just trying to learn from the coaches and also from the guys. There are a lot of great hockey minds on this team, both young and old.
After Granato moved Bjork on Monday, he was on the ice for Reinhart’s two third period goals in the Sabers’ 4-2 win.
“It’s pretty easy to develop a chemistry with these guys because they’re talented and smart players,” Bjork said. “Reinhart has such an ability to slow down the game and make such solid, smart plays and uses his skills so well it’s easy to read him, and he puts the puck in such a great position.
“Fortunately, we’ve been able to capitalize on some of those last two games here.”
Notes: The Sabers, who left on Wednesday, haven’t won three straight games since Feb. 11-16, 2020.… Michael Houser, who will likely play again on Thursday, is the first Sabers goaltender to win his first two starts since Mika Noronen on Les October 5 and 7, 2000.… Granato replaced Sabers rookie Dylan Cozens, who has played center for most of the past two months, against right-winger on Tuesday alongside center Riley Sheahan and Arttu Ruotsalainen. Cozens, 20, started the season as a winger. … Winger Drake Caggiula’s assist on center Cody Eakin’s first period goal on Tuesday was his first point with the Sabers.