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Teamwork on top line keeps Sabres sizzling

The score sheet shows the Sabres’ latest victory was a team effort. A whopping 13 players recorded a point, the first time that’s happened since an 8-2 victory over Atlanta in March 2011.

But there’s no doubt Friday’s onslaught started at the top.

The Sabres’ No. 1 line of Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart had another impressive night, kick-starting Buffalo toward a 5-2 win over Arizona. The trio combined for three goals, one assist and turned the game in the Sabres’ favor with a chance-filled second period.

“We’re finally starting to get some chemistry going and really starting to figure each other out,” Kane said in First Niagara Center. “We enjoy playing together, so it’s working really well so far.”

The line has been together for four games, and the Sabres are 3-0-1. It’s not a coincidence. After failing to record a point during their Nov. 27 debut against Carolina, they’ve combined for eight goals and 13 points in three games.

“We seem to all be on the same page,” Reinhart said. “Communication’s a big thing. We’re constantly talking, constantly learning from one another, so I think that helps. We keep things simple, and knowing where the other one is helps.”

Kane scored two goals for the second straight game, giving Buffalo a 3-1 lead with a short-handed breakaway and sending the 18,204 fans home happy with an empty-net goal with 52 seconds left. Reinhart scored the Sabres’ first goal midway through the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit.

The line had two great chances on its shift following Reinhart’s goal, keeping the crowd riled up. On the shift after that, the trio again pinned the Coyotes in their own zone to tire the visitors and allow Jamie McGinn to put Buffalo in front, 2-1.

“We’re getting on teams’ defense and we’re staying on the puck and we’re battling to create turnovers,” Kane said. “There’s an urgency and a hunger to put pucks away, especially these last couple games.

“We really poured it on in that second period and were able to come out with the lead, so that was huge for us.”

Just as it did in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Detroit, Kane’s speed made a difference. He has four goals and six points in three games.

“He’s probably our hardest worker and our guy who puts the most pressure on teams with how he skates and how he plays,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s getting opportunities now because of that pressure and because of the way he’s playing.”

Reinhart has three goals in three games by doing things with his head. After collecting the puck near the goal line, he avoided the conventional wisdom of skating around the net and instead stopped to bank in the puck off goaltender Mike Smith.

O’Reilly allows the Sabres to possess the puck, either winning faceoffs (60 percent against the Coyotes) or carrying it up ice. He has one goal and three assists since the line came together.

“We can all do different things, but we still play the same kind of game,” Reinhart said. “We can get in there and we can work it down low. We can create chances off the rush as well. There’s a time for each, and we kind of work that nicely.”

The trio’s efforts helped Buffalo score at least four goals for the fourth straight game. The team hadn’t done that since the Chris Drury and Daniel Briere era, when the Sabres accomplished the feat in five straight in 2006-07.

This year’s Sabres will drive for five Sunday when they visit Edmonton.

“It’s nice,” Reinhart said. “Throughout the year it’s going to change. It seems like yesterday that we were answering questions on if we’re getting frustrated or not. Once we get a couple it comes in a wave. Hopefully, we can continue that for as long as possible and start building off of it.

“Obviously, if our line is scoring, if we’re generating, we think we’re doing a good job and kind of judge it off that. If we keep generating, we’re going to keep burying our chances.”


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