It was a Friday night filled with headlines for the Buffalo Sabres.
Where to start?
Rookie goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen earned his first career win in his first career appearance in the National Hockey League. First-year defenseman Mattias Samuelsson posted his first career assist and multi-point effort in the NHL.
Furthermore, reliable veteran Sam Reinhart paced all goal-scorers by contributing his fourth-career hat-trick in a 6-4 victory over the Boston Bruins at KeyBank Center.
Things got off to an inauspicious start, as the first shot Luukkonen saw in his career found the back of the net. It came off the stick of Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer, as he was allowed to skate down the slot off a feed from former Sabres forward Taylor Hall, before cashing in for his second goal of the season.
Buffalo battled back for their rookie netminder later on in the opening period. 17 seconds into a power play opportunity, Reinhart let a rocket-of-a-shot go from the left faceoff circle to tie the game at 1-1.
The special teams tally was Reinhart's 18th goal of the season, and the Sabres' first goal on the power play in 12 chances against the Bruins dating back to April 20.
Buffalo took their first lead 6:54 into the second period, when a back pass from Riley Sheahan found Rasmus Dahlin sliding into a play from the blue line.
The goal was Dahlin's fifth of the season, and when paired with his earlier assist, the defenseman's 10th point in the last 12 games.
Later in the second, the Sabres made it a 3-1 contest when Tage Thompson and Casey Mittelstadt continued their success since being put on a line together a few weeks ago. Thompson skated below the goal line, before dishing a slick pass off to Mittelstadt for his ninth goal of the year.
Also on the play, Samuelsson registered his first career point in the NHL. The big defenseman tallied the secondary assist.
Samuelsson made it a multi-point night in the third period, when another secondary helper aided Arttu Ruotsalainen's fourth goal in nine games. It was also Buffalo's fourth goal of the evening, and sent Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to the showers after being pulled by head coach Bruce Cassidy.
The lead became 5-1 just three minutes later, as the Sabres wasted no time welcoming relief netminder Jaroslav Halak to the game. Reinhart struck again on the man advantage for his 19th goal of the year. It was yet another power play tally, after Buffalo was stymied in a big way through the first two games of the series.
The Bruins stopped the Sabres' run of goals at five, when they responded with three of their own from the 12:06 to the 17:12 mark of the final frame. Forward Nick Ritchie, defenseman Kevan Miller and Hall all scored in succession to make it a very interesting 5-4 contest at KeyBank Center.
Balance was restored two minutes later, when with 52 seconds left in the game, Reinhart put the finishing touches on his first hat-trick since February of 2019 with an empty-net tally. Boston pushed hard, but Buffalo stood pat and held onto the win by a 6-4 final.
Luukkonen stopped 36 of 40 shots faced in victory, and was barraged in the third period by 22 Bruins shots.
Losi and Gangi Three Stars of the Game:
1.) Sam Reinhart - BUF
2.) Rasmus Dahlin - BUF
3.) Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen - BUF
The Sabres head to Madison Square Garden to battle the New York Rangers for the first of a two-game set on Sunday night. Puck drop is set for 6 p.m. ET with the Paul William Beltz Pregame Show with Brian Koziol starting at 5 p.m. ET on the radio home of the Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.