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Eichel scores on OT penalty shot to complete comeback vs. Oilers

Lazar, Reinhart score to erase 2-0 deficit in victory

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Jack Eichel briefly gazed toward the rafters as he drifted to center ice with the game on his stick. Every other set of eyes in the building were on him. 

If there was a lot on his mind in the moments preceding his overtime penalty shot on Thursday, the Sabres captain wasn't going to reveal it afterward. 

"Just try to score, honestly," Eichel said. "I don't know. Just come down, shoot it. (The) ice isn't good, I was fighting it a little bit tonight. So just come down, keep it simple, try to shoot the puck."

Eichel stuck to that script, beating Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith with a wrist shot to his glove side to complete a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. 

Video: Eichel scores on OT penalty shot, Sabres top Oilers

It was a thrilling conclusion to a game that began poorly for the Sabres. Riley Sheahan and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored goals to give Edmonton a 2-0 lead just seven minutes into the contest. The Sabres adjusted quickly, cutting the deficit in half on a goal from Curtis Lazar in the first period and tying the game on a deflection from Sam Reinhart in the third. Linus Ullmark finished with 25 saves. 

Eichel's goal was a tale of two plays, the penalty shot itself and the end-to-end drive that drew the call in the first place.

Late in the first minute of the overtime period, Eichel caught his breath behind the Edmonton net. He stayed patient as Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart took turns curling low, carrying defenders with them away from the net and up the ice. After some 12 seconds behind the goal line, he pounced on a chance to take defenseman Oskar Klefbom 1-on-1. 

Eichel sped to the left ahead of Klefbom, then deked around a charging Leon Draisaitl in the neutral zone. He had Klefbom draped on his back as he attempted a shot from the slot, drawing a hooking call. 

Video: Martin Biron breaks down Eichel's OT shift vs. EDM

After the ruling was made, Lazar and Reinhart shared the same thought on the Buffalo bench. 

"Just thinking I'm glad Jack had it and not me," Lazar said.

"Thank God it's him taking it," added Reinhart. "You just kind of sit back and watch him do his thing. It was a good play on him to get the breakaway from behind our net so that was a big one for us."

The goal itself was the continuation of a mentality that Eichel began to employ on shootouts last season: trust his shot and keep it simple. That strategy led him to a .500 success rate in the shootout over the last two seasons (5-for-10) after connecting on just 16.7 percent of his attempts during his first three years (1-for-8). 

Eichel drifted wide to the left as he crossed the offensive blue line and then slowly moved back toward the slot, looking to force Smith to move laterally and lose his angle. From there, he had two options: shoot blocker side or shoot glove side. Either way, he's firing low. 

This time, he went glove side. The goal was Eichel's 26th of the season, just two shy of his career-high and good for third in the NHL. It was the seventh overtime goal of his career, breaking a tie with Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy to set a new franchise record. 

Video: EDM@BUF: Eichel converts on penalty shot in overtime

"It's exciting," Lazar said. "We fought hard all night, obviously Jack's leading the way for us with that chance. There's no doubt. He's been a trooper since Day 1. It's a good win for our squad."

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger admitted the importance of the victory, which snapped a four-game winless streak. After starting the game tentatively on defense for the first 12 minutes, he counted only two scoring chances against the rest of the way. 

"It's huge," he said. "If you look at, I want to mention it again, just the struggles of late and the way the players have processed those and continued to work together, it's an important signal here in 2020 to kick off the year with a win against a very good hockey team. I mean, they pushed us, they tested us, and they came out of the gates better than we did. 

"We needed to play our best hockey to turn this game around. The guys did, and Linus did his job. But it's more than two points, for sure, at the moment with all that's been going on of late. We're expecting to just take this momentum [with] us."


Olofsson leaves with injury 

Victor Olofsson left the game with an injury following the play that led to Reinhart's tying goal in the third period. Olofsson appeared to lose his edge after driving low with the puck and passing it back to Zach Bogosian at the point. 

As Reinhart tipped Bogosian's shot from the point, Olofsson was struggling to get to his feet. He was helped off the ice by Bogosian and Jake McCabe. 

Video: EDM@BUF: Reinhart deflects in 100th NHL goal

Olofsson was named NHL Rookie of the Month for the second time this season on Thursday morning. His 16 goals and 34 points rank second on the Sabres in addition to leading league rookies. The injury comes less than a week after the team lost Jeff Skinner to an upper-body injury. 

"I want everybody to stay healthy all the time but right away, whatever happens with Victor - we won't know until tomorrow - we'll take a good look at that and we'll deal with whatever the situation is," Krueger said. "That's our job and you want a healthy body back as soon as possible so let's hope that that's the case."


Sabres react to Frolik trade 

The Sabres did add to their forward depth in the hours prior to the game, acquiring winger Michael Frolik from the Calgary Flames. They acquired a fourth-round pick from Montreal in exchange for defenseman Marco Scandella, then flipped the pick to Calgary for Frolik. 

Krueger spoke about the addition of Frolik while also taking the time to thank Scandella, who played 176 games over parts of three seasons with the Sabres.

"We've been expecting something of this nature for a while and we're really grateful for what Marco Scandella's done here," Krueger said. "… With Frolik we're getting a player I know very well from the international experience that I have. 

"I've coached against him quite often and saw him [at the 2014 Olympic Games] in Sochi and other places. Here in the National Hockey League, he's won a Stanley Cup and he brings a mentorship in a character kind of role that will help us to continue to solidify our game. We're really excited to get him here and we wish Marco Scandella a really, really good future and we'll be cheering for him to continue to build on what's been a really good season for him so far this year."

Lazar was teammates with Frolik in Calgary over the past three seasons and spoke highly of his presence in the dressing room. 

"He's an awesome guy," Lazar said. "He's one of the hardest working players I've known and had the pleasure of being around in Calgary. He's going to be a welcome addition to our team here. He's a true professional, he's really going to lead the way."


Lazar, Johansson extend point streaks

Lazar's goal extended his point streak to three games. The play began with a takeaway in the offensive by Marcus Johansson, who also has points in three straight games. Johansson wrapped behind the net and sent the puck into the blue paint, where Lazar pounced. 

Video: EDM@BUF: Lazar cleans up Johansson's wraparound

"I feel great," Lazar said. "Things are starting to fall in place for me. It's been a long time coming. I've put in a lot of work and the big thing now is just to keep it going. This is an everyday league and I'm not going to let up at all."

Krueger later turned to Lazar to win the opening draw of overtime, which set the table for the full minute of possession that preceded Eichel's penalty shot. 

"I just wanted to win that and get off, which I did so it's good," he said. "I'm getting trusted in some key situations and just going to do my best to help the team win."


Up next

The Sabres conclude their homestand against the Florida Panthers on Saturday afternoon. It will be '90s Night at KeyBank Center, with more than 20 alumni set to be in attendance. The first 10,000 fans will receive a commemorative pennant. 

Find the full list of scheduled alumni along with more information here. 

Coverage on MSG begins at 12:30 p.m., or you can listen on WBEN 930 AM. Puck drop is scheduled for 1. 

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