BUFFALO – On the first of his three goals Saturday afternoon, Sabres winger Sam Reinhart showcased a little flash.
After grabbing center Evan Rodrigues’ nifty one-handed pass, Reinhart unleashed a wicked wrist shot from the right circle, beating Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby over the right shoulder 12:51 into the 5-2 win.
Later in the contest, Reinhart put the Sabres up two goals again, sealing the game by tipping defenseman Matt Hunwick’s shot in front 5:43 into the third period.
The score, a response 1:23 after Andre Burakovsky got the Capitals to within 3-2, resembled so many of Reinhart’s goals over his four-year career.
“He’s finally getting rewarded,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “How many pucks did he tip on the power play that haven’t gone in? Finally he gets one. He’s in the right position. He’s very, very good down there in front of the net.”
Reinhart added: “Hunwick does a really good job of being patient at the blue line, allowed me to get body position. It’s not easy battling in front of the net.”
The former second overall pick completed the hat trick with just under a minute left, hitting an empty net from the right wall just below the circle in his own zone.
Many fans responded by throwing hats on the ice to celebrate Reinhart’s first three-goal outing inside KeyBank Center.
“Anytime you can do it at home, it’s that much more special,” Reinhart said. “We appreciate the support.”
At times this year, Reinhart, 23, has been overshadowed by captain Jack Eichel and winger Jeff Skinner, the Sabres’ two NHL All-Stars. Still, Reinhart has enjoyed a career-best season.
Through 61 outings, he has scored 17 goals and 55 points, putting him on pace for 23 goals and a career-high 74 points.
“Danny’s been doing a great job down there with the line of (Rasmus) Asplund and (Victor) Olofsson, he’s been making a lot of solid plays,” Housley said. “Willie’s just that type of guy we need right now. He’s physical, he’s fast.”
To make room, the Sabres scratched center Casey Mittelstadt (sick) and winger C.J. Smith, who was sent back to the AHL during the game.
O’Regan skated 11 minutes, 56 seconds, mostly at right wing beside center Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson. Wilson, meanwhile, played 11 minutes, 52 seconds, mostly at left wing with center Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons.
Sabres winger Kyle Okposo, out since suffering a concussion last Friday, skated Saturday morning, coach Phil Housley said.
“That’s a great sign,” Housley said. “He’s got a smile on his face. So those are all good signs for us.”
Okposo, 30, has a concerning history of concussions. The veteran hasn’t played since suffering another fighting New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo.
Housley believes Okposo will play again this season.
“I would imagine, but we’re not putting any timetable with that,” Housley said.
After a 25-game run, the Sabres sent defenseman Lawrence Pilut back to the Amerks on Friday.
Pilut, 23, compiled one goal and six points in his first NHL action. At times, the Swedish rookie showcased the offensive skills that helped him dominate the AHL earlier this season. Other times, however, he struggled. Housley scratched him Thursday.
“Lawrence’s development is right where it should be,” Housley said. “He’s played a lot of good hockey for us. … I think his play has slipped. Just get him back down to Rochester and have him play some more meaningful minutes.”
Pilut, an AHL All-Star, compiled three goals and 22 points in 16 early-season appearances with the Amerks. Smith and Pilut played for the Amerks on Saturday.
Notes: Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark, who missed Thursday’s start because of a lower-body injury, was well enough to back up Carter Hutton. … Hutton recorded an assist on Reinhart’s empty-net goal. … Hunwick’s assist on Reinhart’s second goal was his first point with the Sabres. … The Sabres also scratched defenseman Casey Nelson (healthy).