NEW YORK – Sam Reinhart went through all of December without a goal. He opened January with one that jump-started the Buffalo Sabres.
Given the drought and the stage, it was meaningful.
"It was one of my better ones to see it go in in my life, for sure," Reinhart said after a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic.
The right winger had been stuck on five goals since Nov. 22, meaning Thanksgiving and Christmas passed him by. He made New Year's Day count.
In the opening minute of the second period, Reinhart stationed himself in front on the power play. He kicked a rebound to himself and went around goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for the dump-in, ending his goal drought at 16 games to make it 2-1.
The power play started late in the first period, and the intermission gave the Sabres and playing surface time to refresh.
"With the ice being clean, it just made it a lot easier to kind of move the puck, and it was a cleaner entry than most of them out there," Reinhart said. "I kind of sat in front and was able to kick it to my stick. It was a nice feeling."
Production has been minimal for Reinhart, who had only one assist during the 16 games. He's on pace for 13 goals and 25 points.
"Maybe not getting rewarded in the points he wants, but I think he's doing a lot of good things," center Jack Eichel said. "It was great to see him get a goal. He goes to the net hard, and it was nice to see the power play get another goal. We'll keep working on it."
Rasmus Ristolainen earned his Winter Classic moment after all.
After scoring his first goal of the season during Friday's 4-3 overtime victory in New Jersey, the Sabres defenseman joked that he'd actually been planning to get rid of the doughnut at the outdoor game. Instead, he extended his goal streak to two straight.
Ristolainen sent a laser into the top corner in the opening minute of the third period, tying the game at 2-2. He also picked up an assist on Reinhart's goal, lifting his season totals to two goals and 11 helpers in 30 games.
"I've been shooting a lot through this year, and I guess now the bounces and the pucks are going in," said Ristolainen, who at 2.53 shots per game is third on the Sabres behind Evander Kane (4.15) and Eichel (3.33).
Lundqvist improved to 4-0 in outdoor games with a .934 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. He made 31 saves against the Sabres.
"I could easily play one every year and I would not be tired of it," the goaltender said. "To get this opportunity in front of so many people and excitement around the game, it doesn't get old to me."
Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner made 39 saves, two shy of the record for an outdoor game. It was set by Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier in the 2014 Winter Classic against Detroit.
The sun was out in full force during the opening period, and it wasn't a pretty sight for the players.
"That was the worst part," Reinhart said. "My eyes were kind of more tired than anything. … It was tough to even watch the game."
The temperature was just 20.9 degrees at puck drop.
"Both teams probably had equal chances with pucks bouncing everywhere," Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian said. "It was a bit of a tennis ball at times, but it was fun."
Though it was technically a home game for the Sabres, the number of Rangers fans dwarfed the Buffalo faithful in the crowd of 41,821.
"I didn't hear the Ranger fans," Sabres coach Phil Housley jokingly said. "I think the fans got their money's worth."