Phil Housley blew up his forward lines for the second time in three days, and his latest experiment yielded an important goal in the third period Tuesday night.
But mixing and matching personnel did little to address his team's poor defensive play. The Buffalo Sabres allowed the tying goal with 1:37 remaining in regulation but beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-4, in a shootout at KeyBank Center.
Sam Reinhart scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, only for Zach Parise to send the game to overtime. Reinhart then won it with a goal in the third shootout round.
The Sabres (26-20-6) kept pace in the playoff race – Carolina, which has 58 points, defeated Pittsburgh, 3-0, Tuesday – and matched their win total from last season.
Evan Rodrigues, C.J. Smith and Rasmus Dahlin also scored for Buffalo, which squandered a two-goal lead in the second period. Linus Ullmark made 41 saves in net. Following a stagnant start to the third period, Housley moved Jeff Skinner and Jason Pominville to the top line with Jack Eichel.
When that group was unable to score, Reinhart skated onto the ice with his new linemates – Casey Mittelstadt and Conor Sheary – and one-timed a pass from Jake McCabe into the open net.
Jared Spurgeon scored twice and Charlie Coyle had the tying goal in the second period for the Wild.
Opening salvo: The Sabres' power play, which was also retooled after going 3-for-33 over its previous 13 games, broke through at 4:31 into the first period when Kyle Okposo screened goalie Devan Dubnyk, which helped Rodrigues' wrist shot from the right-wing circle end up in the back of the net. It was Rodrigues' seventh goal of the season and his fifth in the past seven games.
It was only the second time since Nov. 24 that the Sabres had at least one power play goal in consecutive games.
Slow start: The Sabres had already attempted 10 shots on goal when the Wild recorded its first shot on goal 7:06 into the first period.
Koivu collision: Minnesota center Mikko Koivu left for the visitors' dressing room and did not return after an awkward collision with Sabres winger Tage Thompson, who tried to avoid making contact when the two skated into each other near the Wild's blue line.
Mid-air goal: Spurgeon tied the score, 1-1, at 6:29 into the second period when he batted a puck out of the air and over Ullmark's shoulder. The goal came after the Sabres killed two minor penalties.
He's back: Smith, recalled from Rochester prior to Monday's practice, scored at 7:32 when he one-timed a pass from Reinhart, who intercepted a pass near the opposing blue line.
Power play: The Sabres scored a second power play goal for the first time since Dec. 15 when Dahlin fired a wrist shot through a crowd to make it 3-1 at 11:33 into the second. That tied Dahlin with Aaron Ekblad for the fifth-most points by an 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history.
Quick answer: The Wild scored two unanswered goals to tie the score, 3-3, beginning with Spurgeon's wraparound at 13:43. Coyle followed less than four minutes later when he poked a loose puck over the goal line. The Sabres were outshot, 19-11, in the second period.
Home away from home: The Wild had won five straight games in Buffalo and was 9-2 all-time in KeyBank Center.
Unlikely killer: With Johan Larsson missing a second consecutive game because of injury, Eichel was asked to contribute on the penalty kill. Entering the game, Eichel had played only 17 minutes, 35 seconds shorthanded all season. He nearly scored a shorthanded goal in the first period Tuesday by skating around Ryan Suter for an open look on Dubnyk.
Lineup: Larsson missed a second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Defensemen Matt Hunwick and Nathan Beaulieu were healthy scratches, as Lawrence Pilut was back in the Sabres' lineup.
Next: The Sabres return to practice Wednesday in preparation for a Thursday night game against the Carolina Hurricanes.