BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — When Sabres captain Kyle Okposo scored a hat trick at sold-out KeyBank Center in the first game after a devastating blizzard, coach Don Granato called it a “symbolic” tribute to an anguished city.
Tuesday night it was Tage Thompson’s turn, as the Sabres closed out a three-game road trip on the third day of the new year with heavy hearts. The team arrived at Capital One Arena wearing t-shirts that read “LOVE FOR 3” in a compassionate show of “One Buffalo” brotherhood with Damar Hamlin, No. 3 on the Bills roster, who has been hospitalized in Cincinnati since collapsing and going into cardiac arrest during Monday night’s football game.
Thompson scored his third goal of the night, three minutes into 3-on-3 overtime, giving the Sabres a 5-4 win against the Capitals.
The game-winner was Thompson’s 30th goal of the season, and the victory was the seventh in eight games for the Sabres (19-15-2).
Thompson also set up Alex Tuch for his 18th goal with a spinning pass off the rush and was the recipient of a great pass on his second of the game. He took advantage of a Capitals turnover to score three minutes into OT for his fourth career hat trick — and third of the season.
Even after Washington’s Alex Ovechkin had two goals, only Connor McDavid has scored more this season than Thompson, who moved into third in the NHL in points with 55.
Tyson Jost also scored in the third period to tie it for the the Sabres, who have caught fire in recent weeks, including a six-game winning streak that ended Sunday. During that stretch, they had two games postponed because of the deadly blizzard that killed at least 40 and with hockey one of the furthest things from their minds.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 28 saves in winning his fifth consecutive start.
Signs bearing Hamlin’s name and the Bills logo lined the glass during warmups, and the Sabres said neither players nor coach Don Granato would speak to reporters Tuesday because they were still processing Hamlin’s situation.
“What happened last night is something that makes the game itself and any sport secondary, so it was a tough day for all of us,” general manager Kevyn Adams said. “There’s an emotional connection to the city from our team. It was tough, to be honest, this morning, the conversations. But (players) also, I think, know how much our team means to this city and just wanted to be able to go out and do what we could today to put our best foot forward.”
The Capitals paid tribute to Hamlin with a moment of support before the national anthem.
Buffalo begins a four-game homestand Saturday night against Minnesota.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.