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Sabres hope to build off lessons of comeback victory in Boston

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

BOSTON - In the visiting dressing room at TD Garden on Saturday night, after he had scored his overtime goal and a failed challenge sealed a much-needed victory for the Buffalo Sabres, Ryan O'Reilly had a message for the rest of his teammates.

It didn't take long for Jack Eichel to echo that message when he addressed the media after the game.

"I think we need to use this game as an example of what it takes to win a hockey game," Sabres forward Eichel said. "Factor said it after the game, it doesn't mean much if you don't come back Tuesday and have a good performance."

Video: O'Reilly, Sabres come back to beat Bruins in OT, 5-4

"Factor" is one of a few nicknames O'Reilly has in the Sabres dressing room, and he was certainly one on Saturday. It was the hard work of O'Reilly and his linemates that began Buffalo's comeback from a 3-0 deficit midway through the second period, and it was his backhand shot in overtime that sealed a 5-4 win for the Sabres over the Boston Bruins. 

Eichel, Jason Pominville, Benoit Pouliot and Evander Kane also scored goals for Buffalo. Kane's goal tied the game at 4-4 with 2:08 remaining in regulation. 

Following an upsetting loss to Vancouver at home on Friday, the message from Phil Housley and his staff on Saturday morning was simply to compete. "Play a 60-minute game," Housley said, "and the result will take care of itself." The statement was prophetic: The Sabres liked their start despite an early deficit. Eventually, their hard work turned into results. 

It began with the line of O'Reilly, Pominville and Pouliot, who turned a strong forechecking shift into Buffalo's first goal after 8:01 had passed in the second period. O'Reilly won battles and forced a turnover, and then made a diving pass to an open Pominville with room to shoot.

Video: BUF@BOS: Pominville cashes in on turnover

"I don't think I've been great with my stick this year," O'Reilly said. "Last year I did that a bit more, where I'm moving my feet and moving my stick to make it tough on them. That's all I'm trying to do. In that situation, it worked out."

From that point on, Buffalo's goals stemmed from a simple game built on hard forechecking and a shot mentality. Even after David Pastrnak scored got his second goal to restore the Bruins' three-goal lead, the Sabres were undeterred. Eichel scored on the rebound of a Marco Scandella shot less than five minutes later.

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

In the third period, it was more of the same. The Sabres peppered Anton Khudobin with 15 shots, and two shot attempts from Jake McCabe turned into two goals for Buffalo. The first was blocked in front of the net, creating the carom on which Pouliot scored with 15:05 remaining. The second rebound found Kane to the right of the net.

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

The Buffalo defense combined for 26 shots attempts, led by eight from Scandella.

"We've been really preaching that, just trying to find a lane," Housley said. "Marco's shot through and Jack's goal was a result of that. We're going to continue to work on that because in our offensive scheme it'd be a big part of our plan. I really liked what our D did tonight."

Video: BUF@BOS: Kane ties game with lucky backhand goal

Eichel thought the Sabres pushed even harder in overtime. They played smart, too, changing trios while maintaining possession time and time again until O'Reilly finally drove home the game-winning goal with 2:01 remaining. The goal was challenged for goaltender interference, but after a lengthy review it was ruled that Rasmus Ristolainen had been pushed into Khudobin by a Bruins player.

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

Having started the season with a 1-5-2 record, there were multiple areas of the Sabres' game that Housley had been calling upon them to improve. From their shot attempts to their tendency to get pucks deep, the Sabres checked all of the boxes during their comeback attempt. Afterward, Eichel echoed another one of the lessons Housley has been looking to instill 

"It's tough to win games in this league," Eichel said. "You look at our performance today, I think we outcompeted them and that's why we won the game … We won a lot of 1-on-1 battles. We played smart. We started to attack, our D were coming down the walls, we had some extended shifts in their end and we got pucks to the net and bodies to the net. 

"It's a good recipe for success. We've just got bring it every night."

The true mark of the game will be told with time. The message from the Sabres was that it needs to be a blueprint, not a blip. Their next test will be in Buffalo on Tuesday, a building they've yet to win a game in this season.

"We've, to a man, got to realize why we had success and why we won tonight," O'Reilly said. "It wasn't a perfect game by any means, but the big staples of the game were all there for us. I think we all kind of realized that, 'Ok, this is something we've got to feel.' 

"It's not getting any easier. We've struggled at home and it starts Monday with a good practice. We've got to come out and find a way to do it at home."


Up next

The Sabres return home to host the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center on Tuesday night. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN, or you can listen live on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Want to come down and watch the game live? Tickets are still available.

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