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Comeback win can be turning point for Sabres

Buffalo hoping rallying from three goals to defeat Bruins will fuel momentum

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The Buffalo Sabres came spilling off their bench, out onto the ice, to encircle Ryan O'Reilly after his game-winning goal, relief in their eyes and in their body language. This was needed. Badly needed, even though the players and coach Phil Housley downplayed it after it was all over. For a team that started the season 1-5-2, a team that was disappointed and frustrated, the overtime win on Saturday against the Boston Bruins was more than just the two points. Much more.

But the work is also far from done. A win -- in this case a comeback, 5-4 overtime win in Boston, after they had gone down 3-0 at 37 seconds of the second period -- can only change things if they build on it, if they replicate what they did right and correct what they did wrong. 

The work continues Monday in practice. It continues Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV) and on Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

Video: BUF@BOS: O'Reilly spins and wins it in OT

It continues for the rest of the season, until a season that began with the promise of a new coach and a new contract for Jack Eichel and a new era starts to resemble what it was meant to be.

"It's tough to win games in this League," Eichel said. "If you want to win, you've really got to work hard. I think we need to use this game as an example of what it takes to win a hockey game. … It doesn't mean much if we don't come back Tuesday and have a good performance. We need to start putting something together here, now that we know we can play and we can play with these teams."

After the game in Boston, there were no illusions about what the night had meant. It was one game, one of 82, and it counted for just those two points.

But, too, there was that relief. There was a sense that, after a rough start, the Sabres could perhaps believe in themselves and what they had to offer on the ice.

"Somehow it squeaked in," O'Reilly said, of his game-winner, which resulted in a coach's challenge for goaltender interference from the Bruins before being upheld. "It was a nice bounce for us. I don't think we've had a lot of those lately."

Video: BUF@BOS: Eichel taps home rebound past Khudobin

It was a far cry from the feeling of the night before.

It was just 24 hours earlier when the Sabres lost to the Vancouver Canucks at home, prompting this from defenseman Marco Scandella: "We need more pride in this dressing room. We've got to figure this out. That's unacceptable. The product we put on the ice tonight is just … disappointing."

Housley had talked to his leadership group after that game, before they took the ice against the Bruins. He had discussed it, cajoled them, refocused his players. He had tried to affect change with a group that, on Friday, he had believed wasn't prepared to work.

By Saturday, things were different.

"Obviously we dropped an egg [Friday] night, so we weren't too happy about it," Eichel said. "We know what it takes to compete and how hard we need to work. I don't think there was much said. I think everyone kind of knew what needed to be done. We all just put our nose to the grindstone in that game. You get down 4-1 in Boston against a good hockey team that's been together for a while -- we need to take this win and build off of it."

Video: BUF@BOS: Pouliot hammers loose puck past Khudobin

There had not been enough "work level and battle level," as Housley put it before the game. Not enough to win games in the NHL, or at least not enough to win them consistently. Asked why not, Housley said, "That's a good question. As coaches, we try to get them ready for the game, but it's up to them in that room."

It continues to be up to them. The game against Boston was a step upward, toward the hope and promise that they had felt at the start of the season. It was not a solution, not a guarantee of anything going forward.

So, yes, on Saturday there was relief. There was joy. There was excitement. There was a second win in a season with too few of them.

"We've just got to dig deeper," Eichel had said before the game. "It's got to come from us. No one's going to do it. It's within the room. We've just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out when we want to become better."

There is still disappointment, as Scandella had mentioned on Friday. There are still seven losses in nine games and a spot in the standings just ahead of the Montreal Canadiens in the basement of the Eastern Conference. But 73 games remain and there is time for this all to be erased and forgotten, left behind like a memory.

Video: BUF@BOS: Pominville cashes in on turnover

As O'Reilly said, simply, "We're still disappointed with our start in the season. We've got to get better."

And, on Saturday night, even for one game, they were better. It's a start.

"It's one game," Housley said. "It's something we can build off, but we have to get back to work on Monday."

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