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Eichel's winner gives Sabres 3rd-straight OT victory

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

NASHVILLE - Fact: The Buffalo Sabres almost never lose when Jack Eichel records two or more points in a game. Entering Tuesday night's match against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena, the Buffalo Sabres were 14-3-1 all time in games in which the sophomore center has posted at least two points.

Fact: After Tuesday night's game, that record improved to 15-3-1, an .816 win percentage.

Eichel scored twice, including the overtime winner in Buffalo's 5-4 victory over Nashville. It marked the team's third-straight overtime win as well. Winning three consecutive post-regulation games has only happened once before in franchise history: November 5, 10 and 11, 2006 when Buffalo won all three of those games in overtime. 

Zemgus Girgensons, Brian Gionta and Kyle Okposo also scored for the Sabres. Robin Lehner made 35 saves in the winning effort.

Video: Eichel, Sabres finish off comeback in OT

"We don't think we're ever out of games and you can see it in the last few we've played," Eichel said. "We've battled back and been able to squeeze out two points. At the end of the day, that's what matters."

Buffalo controlled puck for almost the entirety of the overtime session and 2:35 into the extra period, Eichel recognized an opportunity to rush into the zone and generate a scoring chance that ended up lifting Buffalo to victory. 

Pushing the play into the Nashville zone from his own end, Eichel saw that he was going up against two forwards (James Neal and Colin Wilson) and a defenseman (P.K. Subban) as he approached the Predators blue line. As Neal began to turn to direct traffic, Eichel went into high gear, cut in and wired a shot top shelf past goaltender Juuse Saros.

Video: BUF@NSH: Eichel makes nifty move, snaps game-winner

"I think they backed off a bit and just giving me a little bit of space, I was trying to build some speed and attack them," Eichel said. "I noticed that I had a forward playing D back there so I tried to use my speed to go after him. Obviously I tried to get a shot on and he's a really athletic goaltender. He makes it really hard on you so I was trying to move him a little bit and get it up. It's nice to have that one go in."

Video: Jack Eichel on the postgame show

The goal marked Eichel's second-career overtime winner. The first came back on March 12 against Carolina. You might remember that one:

 Video: CAR@BUF: Eichel slips in OT game-winner before buzzer

"He has that ability to take games over show his dominance," Gionta said after the win over Nashville. "That overtime goal obviously was big. He's using his speed and it's tough to stop him."

 

'We're going to win this game'

Fact: The Sabres never had the lead in the game until the very end as they battled back from deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and then 4-2. Buffalo lost an offside challenge after that fourth Predators goal that could have deflated them. 

But it didn't. 

Video: BYLSMA: Postgame Interview

The Eichel line came back strong on the ensuing faceoff and 30 seconds later, they thought they were back within one. However, video replay confirmed the call on the ice that Marcus Foligno directed Sam Reinhart's centering feed in with a kicking motion. That could've deflated them as well, but it didn't. 

Video: LEHNER: Postgame Interview

"Today, we were down 4-2 and we kept plugging away. We kept playing and we believed it's going to happen," Lehner said. "When we score [to make it] 4-3, I had a great feeling in my body. Maybe 15 games ago, it wasn't that great of a feeling. 

"It kind of felt like in the early part of the season, if they got one or if they got two, we didn't feel that great mentally. Now it's kind of reversed a little bit. We know we can score. We know we can go and dominate a couple of shifts. It's a great feeling." 

That feeling was also prevalent on the Sabres bench. 

Video: GIONTA: Postgame Interview

"Our guys on the bench were saying it. We thought we could come back and win in the game," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Even when we got down by two, on our bench, Jack was saying, 'We're going to win this game. We're going to win this game.' And they go out and they do it. It wasn't a pretty effort in a lot of ways. 

"And it wasn't the way we want to do it, but you've got to give our guys a lot of kudos for keep playing and keep coming. They came back and push it to overtime again. I've said it before, if you're going to go on a winning streak, you've got to win some games with a shootout or overtime. We gave Jack a chance to do it again in overtime tonight and he came up with a huge one.

"…That overtime goal shows off exactly what he has in his toolbox and what kind of player he is. That's a great player scoring a great goal - a highlight-reel goal and a great shot. That's what he can do."

Video: OKPOSO: Postgame Interview 

 

Takin' care of business and workin' overtime

And as previously mentioned, this was Buffalo's third-straight overtime win.

Okposo scored the winner on the power play on Friday night against Detroit.

Video: DET@BUF: Okposo backhands PPG to win game in overtime

And Zach Bogosian delivered a thundering blast to propel Buffalo to victory on Saturday in Montreal. 

 Video: BUF@MTL: Bogosian hammers OT winner off iron and in

"Each game's different, but like I said a couple weeks ago when we were playing well and we weren't winning games, we need to find ways to win," Okposo said. "That's the biggest piece for a team that's kind of on the rise. It seems like we're starting to bottle that up a little bit. We've got to try to keep it going and try to go on a run."

Buffalo's overall record is now 20-18-9. At 49 points, they currently sit four points behind Toronto for the second Wild Card spot and five points behind Boston for third in the Atlantic. Five other teams in the East are also sitting at 49 points. 

Buffalo is now 6-3-1 in its last 10 games and with these three overtime thrillers, have shown a bit of a flair for the dramatic.

"It shows a little maturity in the team, composure in tight games, in tough games, in close games," Gionta said. "Three wins in a row is big. Three OT wins - hopefully we're turning a corner here."

 

Up next

The Sabres and their parents (it is the Parents Trip, after all) head to Dallas where the team will face the Stars on Thursday. Stick with Sabres.com for practice coverage from the Lone Star State on Wednesday and then for full game-day coverage Thursday. 

The TOPS Game Night pregame show starts at 8 p.m. ET Thursday night with faceoff scheduled for 8:30. You can also listen to the game live on WGR 550.

We'd say the parents are having a pretty good time so far.

Tweet from @LaurenHall: O'Reilly victory vibes ����������������� pic.twitter.com/iPraxBeFuC

Tweet from @LaurenHall: Better video to come but here's Jack's dad (camo hat) celebrating the OT goal with the other parents in the suite: pic.twitter.com/8TZyt21rU0

 Tweet from @LaurenHall: That winning feeling! A beaming Gio and his dad postgame: pic.twitter.com/AQXAwzUoaX

And that's a fact.

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