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Reinhart, Ullmark lead Sabres to shootout win over Wild

Forward tallies 2 points, adds shootout winner in 5-4 victory

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Rasmus Dahlin seemed to capture the sentiment of the dressing room following a 5-4 win for the Buffalo Sabres over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, a game they led on three occasions before ultimately finishing the job in a shootout.

Yes, the extra point was significant. But the Sabres felt they should have sealed it sooner. 

"It's huge," Dahlin said afterward. "We needed those points. Also, I think we have to be stronger in the D-zone. We can't let them into the game. We had a 3-1 lead. I just think we have to keep going there and play our game, not letting them in."

Video: Reinhart scores in SO to seal Sabres' thrilling win

The Sabres entered the contest with all-new forward lines, defense pairs and power-play units, moves the coaching staff made in response to a loss to Chicago on Saturday. Among the changes: Sam Reinhart was placed on a line with C.J. Smith, recently recalled from Rochester, and Evan Rodrigues. 

Reinhart responded with a two-point effort, feeding Smith for his second-career goal and later burying a backdoor feed from Jake McCabe, then scored the only goal of the shootout. The power play was ignited, too, going 2-for-2 with goals from Rodrigues and Dahlin. 

Linus Ullmark made 41 saves, then stopped all three of the attempts he faced in the shootout. 

"Obviously special teams, that got going a little bit tonight so that was a huge positive," Reinhart said. "… It was nice to get our confidence from that early. It would've been nice to keep it a little tighter at the end, but Linus made some great saves for us and we were able to gut that one out."

The Sabres took their first lead on Rodrigues' goal at 4:31 of the first period, a shot from above the right circle that beat a heavily screened Devan Dubnyk. Jared Spurgeon tied the game for the Wild early in the second, but the Sabres went up 3-1 on goals from Smith and Dahlin. 

Video: MIN@BUF: Rodrigues whips puck by Dubnyk on power play

Spurgeon and Charlie Coyle both scored within 5:32 of Dahlin's marker, knotting the score at 3-3. The Sabres came out strong in the third and regained the lead on Reinhart's goal, but Zach Parise tied it once again with Dubnyk pulled and 1:37 remaining.

"In the second period, you don't want to sound negative, but we have a 3-1 lead," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "That's a time to really lock it down and keep a simple game. I thought we were trying to get four, but not in the right way. In the defensive zone, guys were beating us back to the net. 

"Those things we've got to learn to tighten it up, but I'll give the guys credit in the third period. We found a way to win, even though we gave up that five-on-six goal, I liked our overtime and we found a way to win the shootout."


A focus throughout the season for the Sabres - and one that alternate captain Kyle Okposo referenced at practice following the loss to the Chicago - has been the importance of staying even-keeled through the ups and downs a long season. 

The Sabres showed that levelheadedness on Saturday, balancing the relief of victory with the reality that they have another important game against Carolina, with whom their tied in the standings, on Thursday. They'll get back to work in the meantime.

"I mean, we can't be taking any relief out of anything right now," Reinhart said. "The schedule's so important for us. The games are kind of winding down in a hurry and we know how important every game is. We've got to play with a playoff atmosphere and take advantage of that every night. 

"We have another one coming up in a couple days."


Reinhart's winner

It took some help from the KeyBank Center crowd for Reinhart to find out he had beaten Dubnyk in the shootout. The Wild goalie got a piece of Reinhart's wrist shot - which came on the Sabres' third attempt - only to see the puck fall to the ice and dribble in between his pads.

"I had no idea," Reinhart said. "I was just kind of turning up and just heard the crowd. It was nice to hear."

Video: MIN@BUF: Reinhart nets SO goal as puck trickles in

The goal capped a standout performance from the fourth-year forward, who extended already-established career-highs with his 34th assist and 14th multi-point game. 

He delivered a perfect pass through traffic to set up Smith's goal, but not before showing the good sense to allow Rodrigues to perform a neat-split to get onside. 

Video: MIN@BUF: Reinhart sets up Smith with pretty pass

In the third period, Reinhart set up at the back door and buried a one-time feed through traffic from Jake McCabe. 

Video: MIN@BUF: McCabe, Reinhart connect to put Sabres ahead

"At that point I think it's just more [McCabe] seeing me," Reinhart said. "The lane is clear and he did a great job to get it by a couple guys and put it on the tape."


Ullmark's big night

Ullmark went straight to the dressing room after he was ran into by Parise on the Wild's final shootout attempt, but he insisted he felt great when speaking afterward. It was easy to understand why, given his performance. 

"I feel fantastic," he said. "A win, 5-4, absolutely awesome."

He channeled one of his childhood idols, Dominik Hasek, for his most memorable stop, barrel-roll save to rob former Sabre Marcus Foligno late in the first period.

Video: MIN@BUF: Ullmark slides across to stone Foligno

 "He was really good," Rodrigues said. "He's got such a calming effect back there. He's always in position, he doesn't reach for pucks. Even in the shootout, you never see him slide out of the crease or anything. He's very steady in his net. He always has so much fun with the game that he's able to make those windmill saves."


Sabre Metrics

•   Jack Eichel was another player who found himself with new linemates, skating between Conor Sheary and Kyle Okposo through the first two period before being reunited with Jeff Skinner and Jason Pominville in the third. 

Although he didn't find the back of the net, Eichel turned in an impactful performance: 25:57 of ice time, which led all skaters, to go with nine shots and a pair of assists. 

"I really liked the way Jack attacked the game tonight," Housley said. "He's doing the right things, playing the right way. That 200-foot game was reminiscent of the way he's played in the past. He led in the right way."

•   Another day, another accomplishment added to Dahlin's rookie season. With his power-play goal, he's tied Aaron Ekblad for the fifth-most points by an 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history (29). He skated 25:01, second on the Sabres behind only Eichel.


Up next

The Sabres continue their homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. 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.

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