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game recap

Jack Eichel scores in season debut to lift Sabres

Center has goal, assist in return; Mike Hoffman gets first NHL hat trick for Senators

by Chris Stevenson / Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Center Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist in his season debut for the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-4 win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday.

After missing the first 21 games because of a high ankle sprain, Eichel sparked Buffalo to a 2-0 lead in the first period, assisting on Kyle Okposo's power-play goal and making it 2-0 with his first goal, also on the power play, to help the Sabres (8-9-5) win for the first time in three games.

"I'm a little bit tired. I'm just happy to be back in the swing of things," Eichel said. "The ankle felt really good and I think that's a plus.

"I'm just trying to come back in and bring a little bit of energy every day to the rink whether it's in the locker room, wherever. I haven't been around them so I think that's a positive I can bring every day."


WATCH: All Sabres vs. Senators highlights


Ryan O'Reilly had two goals and Sam Reinhart also scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner allowed a goal on six shots before leaving with 2:12 left in the first period because of a hip injury. He was replaced by Anders Nilsson, who made 26 saves.

Video: BUF@OTT: Hoffman nets three goals in loss to Sabres

Mike Hoffman got his first career NHL hat trick and Mark Stone scored for the Senators (14-8-1), who saw their four-game win streak end. Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

The Sabres had scored more than two goals in a game once in November (13 games) before Eichel's return sparked the offense in the first period.

"He adds a big dimension to our game," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "There's speed. Right from the beginning on the power play, there's a different level of execution, a different level of speed."

Each time the Senators fought back to get within a goal, the Sabres responded. Buffalo led 3-1 after the first period and 4-3 after two periods. O'Reilly made it 5-3 with the Sabres third power-play goal of the game at 16:43 of the third period and Hoffman completed his hat trick with a power play goal at 18:29.

Video: BUF@OTT: O'Reilly powers home his second of the night


Goal of the game

Eichel scored at 9:31 of the first period after some nice puck movement by the Sabres on the power play. The center started it, feeding the puck from the left wing boards to Okposo. The puck wound up back in the high slot with O'Reilly, who faked a shot. He fed Eichel for a one-timer to the stick side from just above the left wing faceoff dot.

Video: BUF@OTT: Eichel records two points in season debut


Save of the game

At 15:04 of the first period, Reinhart, after taking a pass from Eichel at the Ottawa blue line, made a smooth move to go around Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf before breaking in on Anderson, who used his glove to stop Reinhart's shot.

Video: BUF@OTT: Anderson gloves Reinhart's breakaway chance


Highlight of the game

O'Reilly, who had lost his helmet, jumped on a loose puck in the slot and shifted to his backhand before snapping a shot under the crossbar on Anderson's glove side at 14:18 of the first period to make it 3-1, 31 seconds after Hoffman scored.

Video: BUF@OTT: O'Reilly loses helmet, nets backhander


Unsung moment of the game

After Lehner left the game, the first shot Nilsson faced with 1:10 left in the period was a hard one from the point by Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Nilsson got his blocker on it and that helped the Sabres get out of the first period with a 3-1 lead.


They said it

"There was a lot of energy today just waiting for the game to start. I think it helps a little bit when you're able to get a couple of points on the power play at the beginning of the game. It kind of settles you down. I think I was pretty excited in that first period and then in the second period I got a little fatigued. It's tough to keep the game shape after not playing in a while. I was able to settle and felt better in the third." -- Sabres center Jack Eichel on making his season debut


"This league's too good, you can't be chasing by too many. We played a pretty solid game other than that, but it was our start that killed us tonight." -- Senators forward Mike Hoffman on falling behind early


"We started slow, they came out flying, their power play was clicking, and we were chasing our tails all night." -- Senators goaltender Craig Anderson


Need to know

Byslma said Lehner is day to day and described his hip injury as a cramp. … Eichel has seven points (four goals, three assists) in five career games against the Senators. … Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan left the game when he aggravated his right hand injury and is expected to miss the Senators next game. … Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot left the game and is day to day with an undisclosed injury.


What's next

Sabres: Host the New York Rangers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, MSG, NHL.TV)

Senators: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN5, RDS, CSN-PH, NHL.TV)


Video: Eichel big in debut as Sabres beat Senators, 5-4

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