Only 8.7 seconds remain in overtime by the time Evander Kane fully gets a handle on a pass he'd intercepted deep in his own zone on Saturday. He hears a yell, alerting him to what every other person in the building sees is happening on the ice.
Jack Eichel has a clear path for a breakaway.
Kane flips the puck high into the air, and Eichel becomes a centerfielder chasing a fly ball that's hit over his head. Six seconds. Eichel crosses the red line and the puck lands in front of the Sabres bench to his right.
His teammates are yelling anything they can to help, telling him the puck's location or the number of seconds left on the clock. Four seconds. Eichel picks it up outside the right faceoff circle and begins to glide towards the net. Decision time.
Jack was nimble. Jack was quick. And with exactly one second remaining in overtime – for the second time on Saturday and for the 22nd time of his young career – a goal for the Buffalo Sabres came off Jack's stick, sealing a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
"If I remember correctly, I had a breakaway in Montreal [on Thursday] and I tried to go around the pad and the goalie made a good save on the blocker," Eichel said. "I like using that five-hole move here and there. I just pulled a backhand and watched him open up … If you don’t score, you look like an idiot, but it's nice that it snuck through."
Eichel smiled ear-to-ear as his teammates rushed him, as excited as the sellout crowd that had just witnessed his first overtime goal. But by the time he spoke afterward – while the smile did peak through – he was back to business, crediting his teammates for the help they gave him.
"I was just trying to stay patient," Eichel said. "The guys on the bench helped out a lot, you know, yelling, giving me an idea of the time I had, where there guys were. A lot of credit to the bench for all the communication. Kaner makes a great play; he puts the puck out in space where I can skate into it."
A great pass indeed, but also one that Kane said he works on a lot in practice (Eichel verified that statement without being asked). He heard Eichel yell and immediately knew what he had to do.
"I heard a yell. I was 60 percent sure it was him. But there's only eight seconds left so it didn’t really matter to be honest," Kane said. "Like I said, I work on it all the time in practice to be completely honest. I was just trying to flip it up and usually it lands flat and it did for him. He made a great play."
Eichel had already scored once in the game, tipping in a feed from fellow rookie Sam Reinhart to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead 4:56 into the third period. That play began with a give-and-go between Reinhart and Kane at the blue line, with Reinhart giving the puck to Kane at the point and then taking it back at the left circle.
"I do see Sam starting to have some chemistry being a wing man for Jack," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I was happy to see Jack finally be the recipient of a really nice play and pass."
Victor Rask tied the game for Carolina less than five minutes later, but it was the last time the Hurricanes solved Sabres goalie Chad Johnson in a 28-save winning effort. The third period rolled into overtime, and a game that began with a slow, scoreless first period ended with one of the season's most exciting finishes.
"I just didn’t think there was a lot of energy in the game and a lot of energy in the way we were playing," Bylsma said of the game early on. "[Eichel] chased that puck down and gave of us thrill."
A QUICK RESPONSE
In their loss to Montreal on Thursday, the Sabres allowed the Canadiens to score just nine seconds after they had scored the first goal of the game. The situation was the exact opposite on Saturday; with Marcus Foligno scoring for Buffalo 1:10 after Phillip Di Giuseppe had opened the scoring for Carolina at the 6:42 mark of the second period.
Captain Brian Gionta forced a turnover near the net in the Hurricanes zone, picking off an attempted pass from behind by Michal Jordan and knocked it to Foligno, who scored from the slot while falling forward.
"It was a good forecheck. We had good pressure," Foligno said. "Gionta did a heck of a job with the stick and broke up the play there. Their D tried to move it quick and I felt like all night we jumped on them and caused some turnovers."
The line of Gionta, Foligno and center Johan Larsson drew three penalties on Saturday in addition to providing that goal. Matched up with Carolina's top line, Larsson drew two calls in the first period – one of which came against top center Jordan Staal – while Foligno drew a hook from Jordan in the second.
"Any time you can score and draw penalties, it's going to be a tough night for the opposition," Foligno said. "That's our job. Every time we come out we create a frustrating game for the other team's top line."
The Sabres will have a rare three-day stretch between games before they take the ice for their fifth and final meeting with the Montreal Canadiens at First Niagara Center on Wednesday night. The two teams have split their season series thus far with Montreal taking the most recent matchup on Thursday.
Coverage on Wednesday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
In the meantime, check back to Sabres.com for daily practice coverage and more.