The story of the game was always going to be Evander Kane's return to Winnipeg. With the controversial way their relationship ended, the Jets fans were sure to bring their A-game today, and they didn't disappoint. Between huge cheers any time Kane was dumped on the ice (which he was early and often) to chants like "Best Trade Ever" the atmosphere in Winnipeg was awesome.
At least it was until Sam Reinhart quieted the home crowd with the opening goal ninety seconds into the game, and proceeded to steal the game with two more goals, becoming the first Sabres rookie to score a hat trick since Jason Pominville in 2006.
His first was assisted by Weber and Larsson, Reinhart's twisted wrister silenced the crowd, but only momentarily. In fact, the game itself was much like the crowd at the MTS Centre - fun, sloppy, and creative. No pass was more creative than Drew Stafford's through-the-legs pass to set up Andrew Ladd, whose shot would tie the game when it was tipped in by Blake Wheeler.
The Sabres wouldn't stand for it, however, as Sam Reinhart scored his second of the game on the power play, with assists from Eichel and Ristolainen. The Sabres would take their 2-1 lead into the second period for less than a minute, as Mathieu Perreault would quickly tie the game on the power play. Winnipeg controlled the second period, piling up 18 shots and capitalizing on a number of Sabres mistakes to earn some dangerous scoring chances.
Despite being outshot and out-Corsi'd all night, the Sabres would take the lead on Marcus Foligno's first goal in over a month, with assists from Gionta and McCabe. Much of the night's success was thanks to the work of Linus Ullmark, who played himself a heck of a game, making 42 saves in a hostile environment.
The moment of the game came with the Winnipeg net empty, and Kane with the puck on his stick. It would have been a great moment to score the empty net goal, with the man who was ridden out of town sticking it to his former team. But Kane, in perhaps a bigger statement than he would have made by scoring, passed the puck to Sam Reinhart, who scored the empty netter to complete his hat trick.
Reinhart was awesome tonight, shrugging off both a cheap elbow to the head from Dustin Byfuglien in the first period and the salty tears of the Winnipeg media who named him third star despite his hat trick. Both he and Eichel are now in the top five rookie scorers in the NHL tonight, and while Eichel has his ups and downs, Samson seems to get better and better every game.
With the win, the Sabres snapped their six game losing streak, and unbelievably earned their first win in the month of January since 2014 in a game that will certainly be remembered in Buffalo and Winnipeg for a while yet to come.
1. Can Kane have a slump-breaking game against his old team?
Well, things didn't start well for Kane in the warmups...
graceful return to winnipeg pic.twitter.com/VrfIz4jcUs— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 10, 2016
And he certainly took his fair share of bumps...
But Kane had the last laugh with his assist on Reinhart's hat trick.
2. Will the Sabres ever score a first period goal again?
Yes, and they actually scored two thanks to Sam Reinhart. According to TBN's Mike Harrington, the last time Buffalo scored two first period goals was on October 29th, a stretch of 32 games.
3. How will Stafford and Myers play tonight?
Both Stafford and Myers had solid games - Drew had four shots and a dangerous point-blank chance stopped by Ullmark, while Myers played over 22 minutes and saved the game for Winnipeg with an empty net save.
Comment of the Game