O'Reilly, Eichel lead Sabres over Devils 3-1

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) At least the Buffalo Sabres are finishing strong.

Jack Eichel got his 24th goal and Ryan O'Reilly got his 21st to help the Sabres beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Johan Larsson also scored and Chad Johnson made 18 saves for the Sabres.

''This shows how much we've grown,'' Johnson said. ''Get rid of October with that learning curve as a group, with a new coach and new players. After that, we've showed we can be a good team.''

Both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Sabres have been near the bottom of the Eastern Conference most of the season, and the Devils were eliminated on Saturday.

The Sabres are closing out strong, though. The win was their third straight, and they are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games.

The Devils have dropped three games in a row, dropping to 1-4-1 in their last six.

''These games are about playing for each other,'' Devils coach John Hynes said. ''They are about playing for each other, they are about playing for the jersey, they are about playing for the organization. Things we've done all year long and taken pride in. We didn't have that tonight. We have to discuss why we had a performance like we had tonight, and we don't want to have a repeat.''

Cory Schneider made 15 stops for the Devils. Jacob Josefson scored late in the third period.

The Sabres broke a scoreless deadlock on a power-play score with 5:48 remaining in the second period. Eichel fed the puck to O'Reilly, who unleashed a bullet blast from the right dot past Schneider's glove into the top corner.

Larsson upped the lead to 2-0 only 12 seconds into the third period on an unassisted wrist shot from the right circle.

''It's not often they make mistakes but they made a couple there,'' Larsson said.

The remaining suspense centered on Johnson's bid for a fifth career shutout. He made a sharp pad save on Josefson 8 minutes in, but Josefson buried his next chance, one-timing in a feed from Tyler Kennedy with 5:29 remaining.

Eichel added an empty-net goal.

Chances were few in the scoreless first period, with each team mustering only 5 shots.

Hudson Fasching had one of the better opportunities, a blast from the left circle knocked aside by Schneider.

''We didn't have a lot, they didn't have a lot,'' Johnson said. ''It was a typical New Jersey Devils hockey game. We just stuck with the game. It was a good effort by us, but it was a real boring game.''

Devils left wing Patrik Elias returned, seeing action for the first time since Dec. 19 following right knee surgery.

Elias is New Jersey's career leader in goals (407), assists (615) and points (1,022), having spent his entire 17-year career with the team.

This has been a lost season in what might be his final one as a Devil. Elias missed the first 20 games after hurting the knee in training camp. He played 13 games before undergoing surgery in January.

Elias, 39, can become an unrestricted free agent in July. He got a cheer from the fans on his first shift.

''It wasn't that bad,'' Elias said. ''Physically I was fine. Hockey-wise, I was a little rusty on a couple of the plays. I kept the shifts short and had enough time to recover on the bench.''

NOTES: Devils D Jon Merrill will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. ... Buffalo recalled RW Justin Bailey for the third time this season. He did not dress. The other Sabres scratch was D Carlo Colaiacovo. ... With Elias back, LW Joseph Blandisi was a healthy scratch for the Devils. The additional New Jersey scratches were LW Tuomo Ruutu, RW Jordin Tootoo, LW Bobby Farnham and D David Warsofsky.

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