Janne Kuokkanen nets first NHL goal, but Devils fall to Sabres in shootout

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Janne Kuokkanen vs. Sabres
Janne Kuokkanen vs. Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Jack Eichel scored in a shootout, Linus Ullmark made 31 saves, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

Victor Olofsson, Tobias Rieder and Eric Staal also scored as the Sabres improved to 3-0-1 in their past four games. Taylor Hall had two assists.

Janne Kuokkanen, Ty Smith and Andreas Johnsson scored for New Jersey in former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff’s first trip to Buffalo since taking over the Devils this offseason. Scott Wedgewood stopped 28 shots.

Eichel returned to the game in the third period after taking a puck to the mouth and briefly leaving for the dressing room. He scored in the first round of the shootout, ringing a shot from the left slot in off the far post.

Ullmark stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout.

Kuokkanen scored his first NHL goal for the Devils to tie the score at 3 with a little more than nine minutes left in the third period. Kuokkanen jammed the puck inside the near post from just outside the crease after receiving a pass from Michael McLeod.

Olofsson’s power-play goal gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead about midway through the third. Rasmus Dahlin set up Olofsson for a rising wrist shot from the left circle.

Rieder scored a tying goal for Buffalo 41 seconds after Johnsson gave New Jersey a 2-1 lead in the opening minutes of the third period. Cody Eakin created the scoring chance by battling behind the net for the puck and leaving a backhand pass in the left circle for Rieder,

Devils rookie center Jack Hughes tallied his team-leading eighth point of the season when he set up Johnsson for a rising wrist shot from the left circle.

Smith’s power-play goal late in the second period tied it at 1-1. With Stall serving a penalty for hooking in the offensive zone, Smith received a pass from P.K. Subban just inside the blue line and beat Ullmark with a straightaway slap shot.

Staal gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead midway through the second period when he scored on a wrist shot from the high slot.

MISSING PIECES

New Jersey center Travis Zajac did not travel to Buffalo for the weekend series after entering the league’s COVID-19 protocol on Friday. The Devils called up Nicholas Merkley from the taxi squad to replace Zajac in the lineup.

Buffalo forward Sam Reinhart is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and snapped a streak of 246 consecutive games played. Tage Thompson took Reinhart’s place in the Sabres lineup.

RENEWED ACQUAINTANCE

Sabres forward Taylor Hall played against his former team for the first time since the Devils traded him to Arizona on Dec. 16, 2019. Buffalo’s top free-agent acquisition assisted on two goals, tying Eichel for the team lead with nine points in eight games.

RUFF’S RETURN

Ruff served as a Rangers assistant and Stars head coach since being fired by the Sabres in 2013. He coached the Sabres for 16 seasons following a nine-year playing career in Buffalo.

UP NEXT

The teams meet again in Buffalo on Sunday.