STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania - Jack Eichel, Jason Pominville and Evander Kane have been practicing as a line since Day 1 of training camp. Tuesday night, they saw their first game action together and found some instant chemistry.
Pominville scored twice and Eichel capped the game off with the overtime winner while on a 2-on-1 break with Kane in Buffalo's 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Pegula Ice Arena.
Eichel has scored his share highlight-reel overtime goals. And his tally on Tuesday was yet another signature play where he was able to use the open ice in the 3-on-3 situation to his advantage. An end-to-end rush ended with him… well, just watch it yourself along with the other Sabres goals:
Video: PIT at BUF Highlights (9/19/17)
Earlier in the day, Pominville spoke about the desire to contribute more offensively. He posted 47 points (13+34) in 78 games last season and while this is still only the preseason, he said afterwards that he's glad to be off to a quick start with his new - and former - club. His centerman is also happy to see the early results as well.
"You see his hands around the net, there's a reason he's scored as many goals as he has in this League and he's been playing as long as he has. He's a smart player and we'll continue to build chemistry," Eichel said. "That happens in practice, happens in games, watching video together. I think that's something that continues to get better. It's good that we were able to get a few tonight and we're going to continue to work."
Pominville put the Sabres on the board first, with 7:19 remaining in the first period when he one-timed a quick shot short side from along the goal line. The feed, from Eichel, was on a delayed penalty so Pominville as able to creep down low undetected.
"It kind of gave us a free play. I was able to get lost. I think he kind of saw me coming around the net and I kind of figured it was coming," Pominville said. "He made a great play."
The second goal, scored with 9:22 remaining in the second period, came off a faceoff win in the Penguins zone. Kane fired a puck on net and Pominville, again down in the blue paint, took a few whacks it in before cashing in. That gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead.
While less than a week into training camp and only two games into the preseason, a lot could change between now and the regular-season opener on Oct. 4. But for now, Buffalo looks to have a line that's clicking and able to sustain a lot of offensive zone time.
"It's good to see Pommer score a couple goals - really gritty around the net, finding a way to get those pucks in. Evander had a lot of really good looks and they seemed to jell together," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "They're using each other well. Any player who contributes offensively, you feel better about yourself. It was good to see that P had a good game."
Buffalo entered the third period up 2-1, but penalty trouble gave Pittsburgh the opportunity to take control the game. Officials have been cracking down on stick fouls and Buffalo has learned the hard way the past two nights, first in their preseason opener on Monday, and again in Hockey Valley. And just 48 seconds into the third on Tuesday, Eichel was called for slashing, leading to the Penguins' tying goal.
Pittsburgh took the lead on another goal with the man advantage at the 8:16 mark on an Olli Maatta goal.
But Sabres defenseman Matt Tennyson tied the game with 2:45 left in regulation, netting a point shot off a pass from forward Seth Griffith.
"Whenever you give a team that many power plays, you know they're going to gain momentum and it's a tough game to play," Eichel said. "It's tough to get into a rhythm. But we preserved. We bent, we didn't break. We make a good play there at the end of the third and Tenny gets a big goal for us and we're able to win it in overtime."
Chad Johnson started in goal, his first game with the Sabres since the 2015-16 season. He stopped 23 of 24 shots in two periods of action. He was relieved by Adam Wilcox, who is expected to serve as the backup in Rochester this season. He made 10 saves.
"I thought our PK did a terrific job even though we gave up two goals. Johnson played extremely well for us and then Wilcox - in that circumstance to come in the third period and face the rubber he did - he did a terrific job," Housley said. "We're going to need good goaltending on our penalty kill and those two guys provided it for us."
The game marked the second NHL contest played at Pegula Ice Arena, the complex that Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula brought to fruition after a $102 million donation to Penn State University in 2012.
The gift also kick-started Penn State's men's and women's Division-I hockey programs. The men's program won the Big Ten last season.
The Sabres played the Minnesota Wild in a preseason contest there last year.
On Tuesday, they announced a sellout crowd of 6,222.
The Sabres are back at practice Wednesday morning at HarborCenter, with the first of two sessions beginning at 9:45 a.m.
"We've got a lot of work to do. You can see when we're playing together as a five-man unit, it works. We have good puck possession, we have good zone time, we're getting quality shots from our points, our D are joining the rush, they're active in the offensive zone play," Housley said.
"But again, when the puck is getting turned over and we're coming back into our end, the decisions coming back and sorting everything out, those things are technical and can be worked out. We're going to continue to build the game."
Their next preseason game is Friday against Toronto at Ricoh Coliseum. That's the first half of a home-and-home set that wraps up Saturday night at KeyBank Center.
**Lead Photo Courtesy of Mark Selders/Penn State Athletics**