Victories over the the Ottawa Senators have been a rare commodity for the Buffalo Sabres in recent seasons, but Friday's 3-1 win in First Niagara Center allowed Buffalo to take a season series over its division rival for the first time in four years.
Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist to lead the offense as Buffalo finished 2-1-1 against the Senators -- beating Ottawa twice in the same season for the first time since 2011-12.
Reinhart's power-play goal at 2:02 of the first period was his 20th of the season, allowing him to join Jack Eichel to forge Buffalo's third 20-goal duo of rookies in franchise history. That list also includes Danny Gare-Peter McNab (1974-75) and Gilbert Perreault-Steve Atkinson (1970-71).
Reinhart became the fourth NHL rookie with 20 goals this year, a group that also includes Chicago's Artemi Panarin (25), Eichel (22) and Detroit's Dylan Larkin (20).
The winner: Nicolas Deslauriers put the Sabres ahead for keeps with a tap-in at the edge of the crease at 8:17 of the first period on a perfect feed from Ryan O'Reilly. It was Deslauriers' sixth goal of the season and gave O'Reilly 11 assists in his last 11 games. O'Reilly has assisted on a goal in each of the two games he's played in since missing 11 straight with a broken foot.
Style points: The night's prettiest goal was Zach Bogosian's tally at 9:53 of the second period, as the defenseman snuck in to find an empty net after some tic-tac-toe passing. Eichel started the play in the Ottawa zone, finding Reinhart to the right of Craig Anderson at the edge of the crease. Reinhart drew all of Anderson's attention and fed the puck across the crease to the charging Bogosian.
Big loss: The Senators' wild-card hopes took a big hit as they remained seven points behind idle Detroit in the race for the last Eastern Conference spot with 10 games left. Ottawa failed to pass both New Jersey and Carolina, whom they could have leapfrogged with a win.
Big break: The Sens appeared to pull within a goal early in the third period as Scott Gomez deflected a Bobby Ryan shot out of mid-air for a power-play goal. But the play was reviewed and the goal was nullifed because it was ruled Gomez directed the puck in the net with his glove.
Angry Finn: Rasmus Ristolainen got nailed for nine minutes in penalties in the second period, five coming on the first fighting major of his career. Ristolainen and Ottawa forward Alex Chaisson got engaged behind the Buffalo net after a series of cross checks between the two, and Chaisson simply went into the clench after a couple of punches were thrown. It was Ristolainen's first career fighting major.
Angry Fan: Longtime Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil tried to take some liberties with Eichel during a scrum in the final minute at the end boards, and replays showed he kneed the Sabres rookie in the ribs while Eichel was prone on the ice. Upon seeing that, a fan in the fourth row leapt from his seat, burst down the aisle and pounded the glass at Neil as the crowd at that end of the building roared.
Power of ten: Marcus Foligno and Neil got 10-minute misconducts for jostling after a whistle with 19 seconds left in the second period. It marked the seventh and eighth misconducts handed out in the last two games here after the Sabres and Montreal combined for six on Wednesday night.
Schedule is dwindling: Believe it or not, starting with Saturday's game in Toronto, the Sabres are down to the final 10 games of the season. And they have just three left at home, March 26 against Winnipeg, March 31 against Toronto and April 8 against Columbus.
Up next: The Sabres meet the Leafs Saturday night in Air Canada Centre in their second and final trip there this season. Buffalo rallied late to earn a 4-3 shootout win in the ACC on March 7 -- breaking a 12-game winning streak for home teams in the series. With Friday's win, the Sabres improved to 6-7-0 in the front half of back to backs. They're 5-6-1 in the second half to date.