BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres’ future was on display for all to see against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.
Rookies Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Hudson Fasching all scored to lead the Sabres to a 3-2 win over the Jets.
“Obviously, the first thing that pops into your mind is that the future is bright,” Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian said. “It’s always good to see your young guys chip in and get more and more comfortable.”
Eichel and Reinhart, former second overall picks, have been standouts for Buffalo all season long. On Saturday they were joined by Fasching, who got on the score sheet just five days after signing his entry-level contract.
Reinhart tied the game 1:23 into the third period and set up Eichel’s game winner. Eichel picked up his 50th point of the season, while Fasching scored in his first game in the pros.
“The last couple of years there’s been a lot of young guys coming into this organization,” Reinhart said. “The older guys, if you can call them that, really have done so well to make us feel a part of it and make this team as close as it is. So for us to contribute like that makes it special.”
Chad Johnson made 17 saves for Buffalo.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp scored for the Jets (31-38-6), who surrendered an early two-goal lead. Michael Hutchinson made 26 saves.
“I don’t think it was our best effort but we were still winning with that lead,” Jets right winger Drew Stafford said. “We’ve got to learn how to play with a lead, we’ve got to learn how to protect it.”
The Jets began the game in fine fashion, jumping out to an early lead with two goals in a span of 42 seconds.
Ehlers opened the scoring 4:27 into the game on a terrific move down the right wing. Ehlers raced by Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe and beat Johnson from close range with a wrist shot.
Copp made it 2-0 off a deflection in front of the Sabres’ net at 5:09. After Copp’s initial shot was stopped, the puck was deflected into the net for Copp’s fourth goal of the season.
“I think we didn’t handle a 2-0 start maybe as well as we want to,” Copp said.
Fasching got the Sabres on the board at 8:37 with his first NHL goal, and it was certainly one to remember. Five days after signing his first NHL contract, the University of Minnesota product showed off his power forward skills by skating around Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba and tucking a shot inside the far post.
“It’s really exciting. It’s kind of a dream come true,” Fasching said. “I was talking to my buddies and my parents and I was like, if I score in my first game, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to black out on adrenaline … that was almost the case. I was so excited out there. It was a really happy moment for me.”
Reinhart evened the score 1:23 into the third off a rebound in the slot. After left winger Zemgus Girgensons’ shot rang off the right post, Reinhart deposited the rebound for his 21st goal of the year.
Eichel’s game-winner came 4:07 into the third following a turnover in the neutral zone. After Reinhart forced the turnover near center ice, he set up Eichel with a slick no-look backhand pass. Eichel skated to his right before unleashing a low shot inside the left post to give Buffalo the lead.
“Right when he got it, I was screaming for it,” Eichel said. “I had kind of generated a little bit of speed so he hit me in stride and that’s a great play by him.”
The Jets were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
NOTES: The teams had 12 combined scratches. C Cal O’Reilly, D Carlo Colaiacovo, D Cody Franson (neck), G Jason Jasdorf (lower body) and G Robin Lehner (ankle) were scratched for the Sabres. RW Anthony Peluso (upper body), C Bryan Little (upper body), D Toby Enstrom (lower body), RW J.C. Lipon (upper body), D Tyler Myers (knee/hip), D Brenden Kichton and C Mathieu Perrault (upper body) were scratched for the Jets. … This was the first time that former Sabres Drew Stafford and Joel Armia played against their old team in Buffalo since being traded to Winnipeg last February. Myers was also part of that trade but missed the game due to injury. … This was the second and final meeting between the two teams this season. Buffalo won the other meeting 4-2 in Winnipeg on Jan. 10.