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Sabres Double Up Penguins

Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner (53) is stopped by Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith (1) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Sabres interim coach Don Granato hoped a re-emphasis on speed and forechecking would lead to a better result in a rematch against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The difference was evident from the beginning.

Arttu Ruotsalainen scored by converting Dylan Cozens’ pass an 2-on-1 break 26 seconds in, and the Sabres played the role of spoiler in the East Division playoff race with a 4-2 win on Sunday.

Sam Reinhart scored twice and Rasmus Asplund, with an empty-netter, also scored for Buffalo. The Sabres bounced back a day after becoming the NHL’s first team eliminated from playoff contention following a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh.

“I thought we played a little wiser game. We didn’t tire ourselves,” Granato said. “A little messy with the puck yesterday and then we had to expend a lot of extra energy as a result. Our guys cleaned that up today.”

Dustin Tokarski stopped 34 shots and had his shutout bid end on Jason Zucker’s goal scored off a faceoff with 9:42 remaining, and cut Buffalo’s lead to 3-1.

Teddy Blueger also scored in the final minute.

The Penguins came out flat and lacked hustle in dropping to 4-1-1 in their past six and 10-3-2 in their past 15. Pittsburgh squandered an opportunity to move within a point of the East-leading Washington Capitals, who lost at Boston earlier in the day.

“Maybe a little cause for concern in the sense that this time of year, we can’t afford to come out flat like that,” Blueger said. “I felt we were second to loose pucks. Losing a lot of puck battles. I think that kind of cost us.”

Pittsburgh goalie Casey DeSmith made 25 saves and had his three-game shutout streak end at 180 minutes and 18 seconds on Ruotsalaien’s goal. DeSmith, who shut out Buffalo twice this season, had stopped 86 consecutive Sabres shots since allowing Jack Eichel to score 45 seconds into overtime in Pittsburgh’s 5-4 loss on Nov. 19, 2018.

The win was Buffalo’s first in regulation at home against Pittsburgh since a 6-2 victory on Feb. 19, 2012. The Penguins had gone 13-0-2 since.

Overall, Pittsburgh lost to Buffalo for just the eighth time — and fifth in regulation — since the start of the 2012-13 season.

The Sabres continued showing they’re no pushovers by improving to 6-8-3 in the month since Granato took over after Ralph Krueger was fired. Buffalo is also 6-3-2 in its past 11 since snapping an 18-game winless skid that matched the NHL’s 14th-longest streak.

The Sabres scored on each of their first shots of the first two periods.

Buffalo’s Victor Olofsson stripped Evan Rodrigues of the puck inside the Penguins blue line, and passed to Reinhart, who was bursting up the right wing. Reinhart cut into the circle and beat DeSmith high on the far side.

Olofsson also set up Reinhart’s second goal, which put Buffalo up 3-0 eight minutes into the third period. Gaining the Penguins blue line, Olofsson passed to Reinhart, who was alone breaking up the right side, where he snapped a shot over DeSmith’s glove.

“I think we’ve got a lot of young guys and we’re in a position where we have nothing to lose so we’re out there trying to play fast and win hockey games,” Reinhart said. “Really, that’s all we can do at this point.”

Tokarski has won two of his past three starts since Linus Ullmark was sidelined with a lower-body injury. Tokarski’s 27-save outing in a 5-2 win at Washington on Thursday, was his first since December 2015.

CANUCKS 3, MAPLE LEAFS 2, OT

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Bo Harvat scored his second goal of the game 1:19 into overtime, giving the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night in their return from a nearly four-week layoff because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Horvat also had an assist, Nils Hoglander had a goal and an assist, and Braden Holtby made 37 saves as the Canucks played their first game since March 24 — a span of 25 days. At least 21 players and four members of the coaching staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

No Canucks players remained on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list Sunday, but some of Vancouver’s regular starters remained out of the lineup, including goalie Thatcher Demko, defenseman Nate Schmidt and forwards Tyler Motte and Jake Virtanen.

William Nylander had a goal and an assist for Toronto in his first game after missing five due to COVID-19 protocols. Auston Matthews added his league-leading 33rd goal in his return from a nagging wrist injury and John Tavares added a pair of assists.

BRUINS 6, CAPITALS 3

BOSTON (AP) — David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each scored two goals and Boston held off Washington.

Marchand also had two assists for the Bruins, who won their fourth straight. Tuukka Rask stopped 30 of 33 shots in earning his 10th win this season and just his second victory since February.

Washington has lost two of its past three. T.J. Oshie had two goals and Anthony Mantha added another for the first-place Capitals. Mantha has scored a goal in five consecutive games, including all four since being acquired in a deal with Detroit at the trade deadline earlier this month. Vitek Vanecek made 22 saves.

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless and remains one goal back of tying Marcel Dionne for fifth on the NHL’s career goals list.

ISLANDERS 1, FLYERS 0

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nick Leddy scored 2:23 into overtime and Ilya Sorokin made 30 saves to lift New York.

After both goalies were stellar throughout the contest, Leddy scored a fluke goal when his backhand pass went off the skate of Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim and through the legs of goalie Brian Elliott.

The victory sent the Islanders past Pittsburgh into second place in the East Division. New York is two points behind first-place Washington.

Elliott made 27 saves, including several stellar stops late in the third period. Philadelphia is nine points behind Boston for the final playoff spot in the East Division.

It was the sixth time in eight games in the season series that the game went past regulation.

GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5, DUCKS 2

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Nicolas Roy each had a goal and an assist to help Vegas move into a tie for first place in the West Division with Colorado.

Alex Pietrangelo and Alex Tuch also scored goals, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves as the Golden Knights extended their winning streak to six games, matching a season best. Stone had his fourth consecutive multi-point game, matching his career best, previously done Dec. 13 to 19, 2019.

Currently on a three-game COVID-19-related pause, the Avalanche are not scheduled to return to action until Thursday at St. Louis. The Golden Knights and Avalanche are scheduled to meet two more times in the regular season.

Max Comtois and Danton Heinen scored goals for Anaheim, while Adam Henrique reached 200 assists in his career.

RANGERS 5, DEVILS 3

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Mika Zibanejad celebrated his 28th birthday by scoring a power-play goal with three minutes to play and New York swept a four-game series over the six days.

Chris Kreider, Vitali Kravtsov, Alexis Lafreniere and Ryan Strome also scored as the Rangers extended their season-high point streak to six games (5-0-1). Alexandar Georgiev, who had to leave the ice late in the first period with a lower-body injury only to return, finished with 25 saves as New York improved to 13-4-3 in its past 20 games.

Mikhail Maltsev, Marian Studenic and Nico Hischier scored for the Devils, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game. Mackenzie Blackwood had 21 saves as the Devils lost their sixth straight and fell to 1-8-2 in their past 11.

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