After a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday to close out the first half of the 2015-16 season, the Buffalo Sabres began the second half of the season with a matchup with the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday afternoon.
The Sabres came into the MTS Centre on Sunday losers of six-straight games, and tied for last place in the NHL standings with the Columbus Blue Jackets. More notably, it was the first game back in Winnipeg for Sabres forward, Evander Kane and Sabres defenseman, Zach Bogosian.
In the first period, Buffalo got out to a quick start with a goal from Sam Reinhart just 1:37 into the game. Johan Larsson chased down a lose puck in the corner, and found Reinhart coming off the bench. Reinhart then ripped a wrist shot past the glove hand of Jets goalie, Connor Hellebuyck to give the Sabres the lead.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 10, 2016
Winnipeg would respond less than four minutes later with a re-deflection off the stick of Blake Wheeler after Marcus Foligno failed to clear the puck out of the Buffalo zone.
Former Sabres defenseman, Tyler Myers took a holding penalty with less than seven minutes left on the opening frame, which resulted in a Buffalo powerplay.
On that powerplay, Reinhart tried to throw a pass to McGinn in front for a tip-in chance. Instead, the pass bounced off of Tobias Enstrom and through the five-hole of Hellebuyck to give Reinhart his second of the game and eleventh goal of the season.
Buffalo would head into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead, but would be out shot in the period by the Jets, 11-8.
Mike Weber would take an interference penalty right before the end of the first period, which carried over into the second period for Winnipeg. Just 55-seconds into the second period, the Jets tied the hockey game once again courtesy of Mathieu Perrault.
The rest of the second period would go scoreless with Winnipeg continuing to outshoot the Sabres by a 29-20 total.
In the third period, the Sabres would regain the lead once again. At the 4:12 mark of the third period, a Brian Gionta shot would be turned aside by Hellebuyck. However, a juicy rebound found the stick of Marcus Foligno and he made no mistake putting home his third goal of the season. It is Foligno’s first goal since December 4 against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Jets would continue to pepper Sabres goalie, Linus Ullmark throughout the third period as they tried to tie the game. However, Ullmark had a strong performance in net, and ended the day stopping 42 of 44 Winnipeg shots.
With under a minute to go, the Jets pulled Hellebuyck in favor of the extra-attacker. With 26-seconds left, Kane had a chance to put home the empty-net goal and score in his return, but he had another linemate looking for a goal, and that was Reinhart. Reinhart would find space, and take the Kane pass to score his first career hat-trick.
The Sabres would hold on and win, 4-2 to climb back out of the basement of the NHL standings.
Now it’s time for the quick hits!
- Kane, Bogosian returns
It may not quite the return that neither Kane or Bogosian imagined, but the Sabres got the win.
For Kane, he was showered with many chants against him throughout the game. Before the game, fans were encouraging to wear track suits and come ready to boo and chant at Kane.
Oh yeah, and this happened right at the start of pre-game warmups:
graceful return to winnipeg pic.twitter.com/VrfIz4jcUs
— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 10, 2016
While Kane was able to register an assist on Reinhart’s empty-net goal late in the game, the Jets did a nice job of taking Kane out of play throughout the game. Kane finished the game with three shots on goal, four hits, and a blocked shot in 21:32 of total ice-time.
As for Bogosian, he finished the contest with two shots, four hits, and two blocked shots in 23:23 of total-ice time, and played a solid game on the back-end.
A win is a win for the Sabres, and Bogosian and Kane could care less about how they personally performed against their former team. But we will still have some fun!
- Stafford, Myers, Armia
While the Jets had two formers players play their first game against their former team, the Sabres faced three former players.
Does this guy look familiar?
Drew Stafford actually had a decent game against his former team, as he finished the game with an assist, four shots, and two blocked shots in 21:10 of total ice-time. He was the one who kept the puck in the offensive zone of Winnipeg’s first goal, and also had a couple of up-close opportunities on Ullmark.
As for Myers, he finished his first game against his former team with five shots on goal, a hit, a blocked shot, and took a penalty in 22:49 of total ice-time.
On the other hand, Joel Armia did not see much ice-time and did nearly nothing to help the Jets on the fourth line. Armia only was on the ice for 7:09, and registered two hits.
Of course it is too early to tell who won the trade, but the Sabres will not face these three players until March 26 when they make their return to Buffalo for the first time since last February’s trade.
- Hats off for Samson
Coming into Sunday’s game, Reinhart had only registered one point in the past seven games, which was a goal against the Red Wings on January 2.
Reinhart’s first goal was a beautiful wrister from the faceoff circle, that found the top corner on the far-side of Hellebuyck. His second goal was a luck bounce off of a Jets defenseman.
His two first period goals was the second time in his young career that he has scored a multi-goal game. The last time came on November 28 in Nashville when the Sabres beat the Predators 4-1.
Reinhart would complete the hat-trick with his empty-net goal late in the third, but it would be significant. Reinhart now has 12 goals on the season, which is now one behind teammate Jack Eichel for second on the team. In terms of rookie scoring in the NHL, Reinhart now moves up the list to sixth with 19 points. The Sabres now have two rookies in the top six of rookie scoring, which is pretty cool.
It took a while for the Sabres to get a hat-trick since 2013 when Thomas Vanek did it. Rasmus Ristolainen was the last Sabre to score a hat-trick when he scored three on December 10 against the Calgary Flames.
We will now see how this performance can jump-spring his game, and if Reinhart can go on a similar streak like Jack Eichel did when he had his four point game on December 26 against the Boston Bruins.
- Snapped streaks to start the second half
A number of streaks were snapped in Buffalo’s win over the Jets on Sunday night.
Of course, the Sabres snap its six-game losing skid and get its first win of the 2016 calendar year. With this win, the Sabres have won its first game in the month of January since January 30, 2014. It was a streak of 15-straight games that the Sabres had lost in the month of January.
Next, it was the first Sabres win in Winnipeg since February 10, 1993 when the original franchise (now the Arizona Coyotes) held residence there. In that game, Alexander Mogilny scored four goals and had an assists, while Pat Lafontaine had a goal and five assists in a 6-2 beat down of the Jets.
As for the game Sunday, a couple players snapped some long streaks in the win.
Johan Larsson registered an assist on Reinhart’s first goal of the game. For Larsson, it was his first point in 10 games. His last point came back on December 14 when he scored his first goal of the season against the Red Wings.
As for Marcus Foligno, his third period goal was his first goal, and point since December 4 against the Arizona Coyotes. That snapped a 10-game pointless drought of his own.
Seems like the second half of the season for Buffalo is off to a good start for now. Now, off to Minnesota to play the Wild on Tuesday.