WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Buffalo Sabres had won four straight games against the Winnipeg Jets but this is a different club in the frigid True North this year.
Winnipeg continued its seasonlong run at home and reclaimed first place in the Central Division Friday night by holding off Buffalo, 4-3, in Bell MTS Place. Blake Wheeler and Jacob Trouba each had a goal and an assist while Dustin Byfuglien tallied his long-awaited first of the season to lead the Jets to victory.
Winnipeg improved to 24-11-7 overall and 15-3-1 at home -- including 14-1-1 in its last 16 here. The Sabres hit the halfway point of their schedule with a ghastly record of 10-22-9.
Buffalo is 0-2-1 in its last three games, 2-5-3 in its last 10 and 4-9-5 in its last 18.
Piano off the Back I: Winnipeg scored the game's first goal on Byfuglien's laser-like slapshot from the right point on a power play at 9:27 of the first period. It was the first of the year for Byfuglien -- who had averaged 17.5 goals a season over the last four years for the Jets. When the puck entered the net, Byfuglien thrust his arms in the air and looked to the sky in relief as the crowd roared.
— Sporting News Canada (@sportingnewsca) January 6, 2018
Piano off the Back II: The Sabres got even at 11:40 of the first on Marco Scandella's first goal with Buffalo, which came on a shot from the right circle three seconds after a power play expired. Like Byfuglien, the goal got a big celebration with Scandella clenching his fists and pumping his arms.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 6, 2018
Piano off the Back III: Buffalo pulled within 3-2 with 1:57 left in the second period on Johan Larsson's goal off a Jacob Josefson feed. It was Larsson's second goal of the season -- and first since scoring the empty-net clincher Oct. 15 in Anaheim, which was 34 games ago.
Piano off the Back IV: Scott Wilson scored for the Sabres with 7:43 left on a snapshot to the top corner. And yes, that was also his first of the year in 29 games over three teams.
Jets take control: The Larsson goal came after Winnipeg had scored two straight to forge a 3-1 lead. Jacob Trouba snaked home a long slapshot at 15:46 of the first to make it 2-1 and Blake Wheeler burned Chad Johnson with a snapshot on a power play at 6:06 of the second for a two-goal lead.
Trends in net continue: Johnson, a 22-game winner for the Sabres two years ago, fell to just 1-7-3 for Buffalo this year. Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck, the reigning NHL Player of the Week, improved to 22-4-6 with the victory.
Seranades: Former Jets forward Evander Kane got booed lustily each time he touched the puck, just as he did in his previous two visits here since the Sabres acquired him in 2015. At one point in the second period, the hip crowd brought out an old standby -- "Best Trade Ev-er, Best Trade Ev-er" -- to taunt Kane.
Alumni Report: Tyler Myers had an assist for Winnipeg while fellow former Sabres Dmitry Kulikov and Joel Armia did not register a point. It was Myers' 15th assist and 20th point of the season.
Go East, Go West: The Jets improved to 7-5-5 against the Eastern Conference this season and have done most of their damage against the West (17-6-2). The Sabres came into the night as equal-opportunity offenders at 6-14-6 vs. the East and now 4-8-3 vs. the West. Buffalo was just 1-3-2 against the Central.
Report from Buffalo: The crowd gave huge cheers when Canada's goals in its gold medal game victory over Sweden at the World Junior Championship were shown on the jumbotron. The biggest roar came as the postgame celebration was shown following the 3-1 victory.
Up Next: The Sabres stayed here overnight and were to fly out Saturday morning. They will stay off the ice Saturday and travel to Philadelphia, where they will meet the Flyers Sunday afternoon at 1 in Wells Fargo Center. They meet the Jets again Tuesday night in KeyBank Center in the return of NHL hockey after the holiday break and the 10-day run of the World Juniors.