Sam Reinhart watched as his buzzer-beating backhand deflected off the post while the final second ticked off the clock in overtime on Sunday, briefly extending what had already been a thrilling St. Patrick's Day matchup between the Sabres and St. Louis Blues at KeyBank Center.
When given a second chance at a game-winning goal in the ensuing shutout, he was sure to hit his mark.
Reinhart flipped his forehand attempt over the pad of Blues goalie Jake Allen and Ryan O'Reilly ended his return to Buffalo with a shot off the crossbar to clinch a 4-3 Sabres victory, snapping their seven-game winless streak.
"It's a credit to the guys, because obviously things haven't gone the way we wanted them to," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "To do what they did tonight was great to see."
Video: STL@BUF: Reinhart puts Sabres ahead in shootout
Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary all scored goals for the Sabres, while Alexander Nylander turned in the first multi-point outing of his career with a pair of assists. Jack Eichel tallied in the opening round of the shootout.
Carter Hutton made 30 saves to beat his former team, including a couple of key stops late in an overtime period in which the Sabres were outshot 6-1.
Buffalo led 3-1 after Sheary scored on a 2-on-1 feed from Nylander at 7:46 in the second period. David Perron brought St. Louis back within one upon leaving the penalty box later in the period, and Brayden Schenn tied the game on a wrap-around goal at 8:41 in the third.
The squandered lead could have deflated the Sabres, if not for a loud shift from the line of Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo that livened the crowd and created an atmosphere that was reminiscent of the team's early-season success.
"Obviously, we haven't given them much to get up for as of late," Rodrigues said. "But, in the third period especially when there's a few hits being laid and they were up in their seat and cheering, it was definitely nice to see again."
It all happened in a span of less than 30 seconds late in the third period, when all five Sabres who were on the ice managed to deliver loud plays that elicited louder reactions.
Larsson wrestled Jay Bouwmeester to the ice along the boards. Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo took turns laying checks on Colton Parayko. On the other end, Casey Nelson punished Jaden Schwartz as he forechecked along the end boards.
"It got physical," Housley said. "It all started with Larsson's line, they came out and delivered some hits. Our guys didn't back off. I just liked the way we played after a back-to-back. In Carolina [on Saturday], I just thought our game was in a pretty good spot. We didn't get the result and we haven't gotten the result in the last two weeks.
"I'm happy for our guys. They just continue to battle, fight and they found a way to win tonight."
Hutton battled his way through the overtime period, including a clutch save on a Tyler Bozak attempt from in tight.
Video: STL@BUF: Hutton uses pad to deny Bozak in overtime
"It was kind of one of those things, just trying to keep us in it," he said. "We had our chances, they had theirs. I think that's the beauty of the 3-on-3, I think it's a lot of fun for everyone involved. Sometimes [as] the goalie, it's feast or famine, but you just try to battle and just have fun with it."
Reinhart's goal was his third shootout winner of the season, tying Ryan Johansen and Kevin Shattenkirk for most in the NHL this season and placing him one shy of Ales Kotalik's franchise record, set in 2006-07.
Hutton had to face one last shot from O'Reilly following Reinhart's goal, a matchup of two players facing their former teams. O'Reilly's shot caught just enough of the crossbar to deflect up and out of harm's way, giving Hutton his first win in seven career games against the Blues.
"I thought last night, we really had a great effort," Hutton said. "Tonight, we brought it again and obviously we appreciate the crowd getting into it. It gives us a lot of energy heading into the last bit of the game there. That was some wide-open hockey. I'm sure it was a lot of fun for everybody.
An effective trio
Rodrigues had gone 18 games without a goal entering Sunday (he tallied six assists in that span), but he brought that drought to an end with a little bit of patience on what began as a 2-on-1 rush with Sheary in the first period.
Rodrigues saw that Sheary had to slow down as they entered the offensive zone, eliminating their odd-man advantage. He slowed up as he skated toward the left faceoff circle to prevent Parayko from blocking his shot, which beat Allen to his glove side.
Video: STL@BUF: Rodrigues shows patience to beat Allen
"You know, it's funny how it works," Rodrigues said. "You get some grade-As, some great looks, and they don't go in and then I end up putting one on net and it finds its way in. It was nice to get that one and I thought our line as a whole has been playing really well, especially the past couple games."
Housley complemented the trio of Sheary, Rodrigues and Nylander, which combined to produce 11 shots and 14 attempts. Both Sheary and Rodrigues said they have noticed Nylander growing more comfortable, now four games into his first recall of the season.
"Yeah, definitely," Rodrigues said. "I'm trying to talk to him a lot, make the game a little bit easier for him. He has high-level skill, obviously. When you can let him know that he has time or when he has to make a quick play, it's definitely going to help out his game. I think he's starting to show off his skill."
Dahlin ties Orr
Rasmus Dahlin's secondary assist on Sheary's goal was his 38th point of the season (8+30), tying Bobby Orr for second-most points by an 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history. Housley holds the record with 57 points in 1982-83.
Dahlin caught Orr in style, calmly evading the reach of Blues defenseman Michael Del Zotto as he carried the puck in his own zone and then passing across his body to set Nylander and Sheary loose on a 2-on-1 rush.
Video: STL@BUF: Sheary picks the corner on Allen
"You're not surprised by anything that guy really does sometimes," Sheary said. "He's just so poised with the puck and makes such great plays. On that one, he was able to break us free and it obviously led to the goal."
After allowing Bozak to score with a wrist shot in the opening round of the shootout, Hutton was able to make a pad save on a backhand attempt from Perrond in round two. The goalie said his familiarity with his former teammate aided him in making the stop.
"It did actually, yeah," he said. "I've seen him score a lot of goals like that, going to his backhand. I actually knew what Bozak was going to do and I kind of cheated glove and it just went under my triangle, in between my glove and my pad. It was a good shot.
"O'Reilly, he doesn't normally do that move but it was a great move. It hit the crossbar just enough to stay out there."
Checking in with J-P Dumont
The former Sabres forward is in town for the Alumni Wine Festival on Tuesday, and he joined Brian Duff and Marty Biron at intermission. Check out their conversation in the video below:
Video: J-P Dumont Intermission Interview
Luck of the Irish
The Sabres wore commemorative St. Patrick's Day jerseys for warmups, which are now available at Sabres.com/auctions. Proceeds benefit the Sabres Foundation.
The Sabres conclude their season series with the rival Toronto Maple Leafs at KeyBank Center on Wednesday. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.