WINNIPEG—Buffalo Sabres’ forward Evander Kane got the last laugh yesterday afternoon.
Kane assisted on the game’s final empty-net goal, which gave Sam Reinhart a hat trick and the Sabres a 4-2 win that halted their six-game losing skid.
Kane was playing his first game against the team that traded him last Feb. 11 in a multi-player deal that many fans considered good riddance.
The razzing of Kane started during the warm-up, when he was the first Sabres’ skater on the ice.
Within seconds, he stepped on a puck and fell—sparking fans at MTS Centre to cheer his tumble.
“It was all part of the plan,” Kane said after the game. “I was looking to get some cheers out of the crowd and get them behind.
So I thought that’d be a good way to do it.”
Reinhart had nothing but praise for the way Kane handled himself in front of a hostile crowd, and how he chose to set him up for his third goal with 25.7 seconds left.
Kane could have shot the puck and scored himself, noted the rookie, who recorded his first NHL hat trick and 12th goal of the season on the play.
“It says a lot for him to handle the welcome back, if I can put it that way, the way he did,” Reinhart said.
“To make the play he did shows he really is unselfish and will do anything for the team.”
Kane noted he’s yet to score a hat trick of his own since joining the NHL.
“So when you get an opportunity to get one, he’s a young kid, his rookie year, and wide open,” Kane said.
“I might as well hit him for a pass and get him his hat trick.
“It was great to see from him,” he added.
Marcus Foligno also scored for Buffalo (16-22-4) while Linus Ullmark made 42 stops.
Winnipeg (19-20-3) got goals from Blake Wheeler and Mathieu Perreault.
Wheeler, who ended a 12-game scoring drought, also had an assist.
Bryan Little added two helpers while Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 25 shots.
The teams were tied 2-2 heading into the third period when Hellebuyck gave up a long rebound from Brian Gionta’s point shot, which Foligno used to put the puck over the goalie at 4:12 for his third goal of the season.
“I was just trying to get it up on the glass,” Hellebuyck said of the rebound.
“It felt like I got my toe on it instead of my stick, and then it was right on his tape and I wasn’t able to get back in time.”
Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice had no concerns about the game-winning goal.
“My thoughts on my goaltender is he’s been just spectacular,” Maurice said.
As far as any distractions for his players with the Kane hoopla, the coach dismissed that as having an impact.
“I thought we handled it fine,” Maurice said. “There wasn’t much on the ice.”
Perreault left the game twice with what looked like a knee injury—the final time late in the third.
Maurice said he had no update on him, but added he expects scratched centre Mark Scheifele (lower body) will return tomorrow when Winnipeg hosts San Jose.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Washington dumped Ottawa 7-1, Florida nipped Edmonton 2-1, New Jersey edged Minnesota 2-1, Chicago doubled Colorado 6-3, and Detroit shaded Anaheim 2-1.