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5 takeaways | Reinhart's 2 goals lead Sabres past Penguins

Early goal from Ruotsalainen sets tone in 4-2 victory

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins won the opening draw Sunday and sent the puck into the Buffalo zone, where it would remain for about 20 seconds.

The Sabres were off and running from that point forward. 

Arttu Ruotsalainen buried a one-time shot on a 2-on-1 feed from Dylan Cozens to conclude the first shift of the game and the Sabres held onto the lead until the final horn sounded on a 4-2 win at KeyBank Center.

"If you look at that shift, they came out really hot," Sam Reinhart said afterward. "Those guys did a good job of weathering it and got a play. Obviously could have gone two different ways and those guys that started did a good job to get us off on the right foot."

Reinhart scored a pair of goals for the Sabres, who also received an empty-net goal from Rasmus Asplund. Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Dahlin tallied two assists each. 

Here are five takeaways. 

Video: Condensed Game: Penguins @ Sabres

 

1. Sabres bounce back

The Sabres had a comeback effort fall short against the Penguins on Saturday, though their efforts may not have been totally fruitless. In a rematch 24 hours later, interim head coach Don Granato felt it was his team that had the advantage from an energy standpoint.

Granato walked the team through some video clips during the second intermission and communicated as much to his players. 

"It looked like we were pressuring and we had kind of worn on them a little bit," Granato said. "They looked a little more tired than we did just in a quick review. And I mentioned that to our guys, the job they were doing to wear. 

"It made me think back to last night's game, just making that game hard all the way to the end might have had an affect tonight because we did have some good energy." 

Video: POSTGAME: Granato

The Sabres corrected their mistakes from Saturday, tightening their support and cleaning up their decision making with the puck to put the Penguins on their heels. The Penguins were held off the board until Jason Zucker scored with 9:42 remaining in the first period.

 

2. Reinhart takes the lead

Reinhart, at 25, is a young player in his own right. He's also veteran on the Sabres in their current form. He and Rasmus Ristolainen have been the two players wearing an "A" since Kyle Okposo sustained a season-ending injury on Thursday. 

Granato said he's seen Reinhart embrace his status as one of the more experienced forwards on a roster that has seemed to get younger with each passing day.

"He's engaged in a different way," Granato said. "He's not a real vocal guy. He's only vocal when necessary, typically. ... But now we see him, you know, more vocal, more talkative in between shifts working with guys on his line and other lines. That's nice to see."

Reinhart continued to let his play do the talking Sunday, tallying his team-leading 16th and 17th goals of the season with a pair of well-placed shots from the right faceoff circle. He is averaging .40 goals per game this season, a career-best mark that would amount to 32 goals during an 82-game campaign. 

 

3. Samuelsson's debut

Mattias Samuelsson became the fourth Sabres player to make his NHL debut this season, joining Dylan Cozens, Jacob Bryson, and Arttu Ruotsalainen. The defenseman skated 14:12 on a pair with Rasmus Ristolainen. 

Granato said his coaching staff had been planning to pair Samuelsson with Ristolainen for days prior to the recall because of the way Ristolainen embraced a mentorship role playing alongside Bryson. Bryson moved to a pair with Colin Miller on Sunday.

"We felt, 'This is a perfect situation. We can bring Mattias up, slide him in there, and Bryson is ready to go on his own, per se,'" Granato said. "And that was the case." 

 

4. Tokarski goes back-to-back

Granato stuck with Dustin Tokarski in net on back-to-back afternoons, opting to allow rookie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to spend time with the club before jumping into his NHL debut. Tokarski responded with a 34-save outing that saw him carry a shutout into the back half of the third period.

"That's competitiveness and that's drive and determination," Granato said. "All those intangibles are what push him through and pushes anybody through. Usually there's a little drop in focus, little subtleties maybe off in a second night. Maybe you're off your angle a little bit or rebound control. But none of that tonight. You would have thought it was the same as last night or maybe even better." 

 

5. The big picture

The Sabres improve to 6-3-2 since March 31. The next test is a set of three games in four days against the Boston Bruins at KeyBank Center. The two teams last met on Tuesday, a physical affair that saw the Sabres erase a third-period deficit before falling in a shootout. 

The series opens next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN.

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