LOS ANGELES - Somewhere, in the hours leading up to his first game as a Laker in Los Angeles, LeBron James might have caught word of the performance Jeff Skinner and his linemates put on at Staples Center and thought, Man, that's a tough act to follow.
Skinner scored a hat trick to lead the Sabres to a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings, bringing them to 2-2-0 with a game to go on their Pacific Division road trip and 4-4-0 on the season.
"It was a little bit light here to start the game," Sabres captain Jack Eichel said afterward. "It filled out, but I guess that's what happens when you're playing at 12:30 in L.A. and LeBron's after you. Skins put on a pretty good performance, so I think The King's going to have to do pretty good to beat him."
Video: Skinner records hat trick as Sabres top Kings, 5-1
Phil Housley shuffled his lines at practice on Friday in search of an offensive spark following losses in Vegas and San Jose, including placing Skinner on a line with Eichel and Jason Pominville. The move paid off early and often against the Kings.
Pominville opened the scoring with a first-period goal and added two assists to reach 700 career points. Eichel tallied three assists, winning battles along the boards and near the net to create opportunities for his linemates.
On their first goal, Eichel held onto the puck as he drove through a pair of defenders to the Los Angeles net. Pominville crashed the net as well, and the puck deflected up off his skate and in off Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Video: BUF@LAK: Pominville cleans up rebound to open scoring
"Try to get the puck to Jack, get open and go to the net," Pominville said. "I think we did that pretty well. We created offense but at the same time didn't give up anything. I think that's where it starts. You don't give up much, you're able to play in the zone and play with the puck."
Goals one and two for Skinner both came on plays in the second period that began with the puck on his stick behind the net. Eichel made the first goal possible by winning a battle against two Kings defenders along the boards and shuffling the puck back to the winger.
Skinner wrapped around in front, drifted away from the net and beat Quick to his glove side.
Video: BUF@LAK: Skinner beats Quick on wraparound
"He's dominant, so tough to play against," Skinner said of Eichel. "When you're playing on his wing, you've got to be ready. Sometimes you think they're going to break out and somehow he wins the puck back and you find it on your tape when you open your eyes.
"He did a great job today winning battles, being strong on the forecheck and we were able to generate offense because of it."
Skinner made it 3-0 with 4:08 remaining in the period, this time beating Quick between his pads. He finished the hat trick with 24.9 seconds left on the clock, sending the puck into an empty net from near center ice.
"Both my goals came off the cycle and Pommer's goal off the rush but it's sort of being hard at the net," Skinner said. "All six D did a great job being up on the play making it hard for them to break out and that's when you're going to have success."'
Video: BUF@LAK: Skinner jams home puck to notch second goal
As great as their top line was, Housley was careful to emphasize how much of a team win it truly was. The Sabres held the Kings to 20 shots, a testament to the job done by their defensemen. Linus Ullmark came 7:34 shy of his second shutout in row (broken by a power-play goal from Drew Doughty).
The list goes on. Zach Bogosian scored the team's fourth goal on a night in which he also fought L.A.'s Kyle Clifford. That goal was made possible by a screen from Patrik Berglund, who had been scratched in San Jose on Thursday.
"One of the best games overall, right?" Housley said. "From coming out of our own end to forechecking and attacking up the rush. Our checking detail was great, but our movement was so good tonight. It's very evident that when we move the puck and it's crisp, we're a fast team. Give credit to our D."
As for setting the bar high for LeBron, Skinner put his head down and smiled.
"I think he'll probably do a better job," he said. "But it was nice to get a win for us, a big bounce-back game."
Pominville became the third player taken in the 2001 NHL Draft to reach 700 career points. The others were Ilya Kovalchuk and Jason Spezza, the top two picks that year. Pominville was selected by Buffalo with the 55th pick.
"I've been fortunate to stick in the league and I've had to work hard to be in the league and to stick around," Pominville said. "It's definitely rewarding. It's a nice number to hit. Hopefully there's more to come."
Afterward, players could be heard throughout the dressing room congratulating Pominville on his achievement.
"It's good for young guys to see that too," Bogosian said. "It's a guy that plugs away every day. As professional as he is, he's a good example for the younger players and to see him get rewarded with 700 is awesome for him."
Bogo, on the board
Video: BUF@LAK: Bogosian rings one home off the pipe
Bogosian's goal put the Sabres up 4-0 with 15 seconds to play in the second period. The defenseman had a big smile on his face after beating Quick with a shot from the half-wall, and rightfully so - it was his first goal since March 27, 2017.
"I wasn't surprised," he said. "We were all laughing, having a little fun with it. It felt nice, I'm not going to lie. But that goes doesn't happen if Bergy doesn't go in front and screen Quick. I just put it on net and Bergy did most of the work there."
The Sabres conclude their five-game road trip against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 7:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night Pregame Show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 8.