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Eichel extends point streak to 15 in win over Predators

Captain tallies 2 goals as Sabres win 3rd straight game

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Sam Reinhart has played with Jack Eichel since the start of their rookie seasons in 2015, often as linemates. He's been in the building for virtually every point Eichel has tallied in the NHL. 

Apparently, it never gets old. Reinhart was just as awed as those in the KeyBank Center crowd when he saw Eichel score the first of his two goals against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. 

Eichel received the puck on the outer edge of the left faceoff circle and deked by a defender as he cut toward the net. As he drifted toward defenseman Ryan Ellis down low, Eichel saw a small window of daylight above the inside shoulder of goaltender Juuse Saros and delivered a laser in off the crossbar. 

Video: NSH@BUF: Eichel nets deflection for second goal

"I kind of blacked out watching it, just like you guys," Reinhart said afterward. 

"He's probably the best player in the world right now," their linemate, Victor Olofsson, added. 

Eichel provided the highlights in a 4-3 victory for the Sabres, their third in a row. His two goals extended his point streak to 15 games, tied with Chicago's Patrick Kane for the longest in the NHL this season. His 22 goals rank second in the NHL to Boston's David Pastrnak; his 17 even-strength goals rank first. 

But while Eichel's teammates were more than willing to continue to discuss the latest installment in his memorable first half to the season, the Sabres captain preferred to point out the other ingredients he felt were just as crucial to the victory. 

He pointed out the line of Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, and Kyle Okposo. The hardworking trio has found their offensive touch as of late, but their tenacious forechecking and defensive awareness has made them an example for other lines to follow all season long. 

Eichel credited a shift by Larsson's line in the second period with making his second goal possible. Girgensons, Larsson, and Okposo wore down the Predators defenders until they finally iced the puck. With the Predators still catching their breath, Eichel's line came over the boards and put the Sabres ahead, 3-2. 

"They bring it every night and they're playing huge minutes for us, sometimes playing against the other team's top line," Eichel said. "They've been tremendous. I think they jumpstarted us again tonight with just the way they've been playing." 

Video: Condensed Game: Predators @ Sabres

Then there was Olofsson, who - two shifts after a dominant run from the Larsson line - tallied the winning goal with 11:31 remaining. It was his 29th point of the season, moving him ahead of Colorado rookie Cale Makar for the NHL's rookie lead. 

"It was great to see Ollie get rewarded at the end there with the game winner," Eichel said. "I thought he competed real hard tonight and he's been around the net a lot lately."

Or how about Linus Ullmark, who made 36 save to improve to 6-1-1 in his last eight starts? Eichel called Ullmark the team's "backbone" of late following their win over St. Louis on Tuesday.

"Obviously Linus has been tremendous," he said. "I mean, he's obviously a real confident goalie right now. He's been playing lights out. He's given us a chance to win every night we go out there."

Reinhart said Ullmark was the best player on the ice. 

"I think after that really tough and emotional win against a challenging opponent a couple of days ago and another kind of a grind of a match against these guys - big, strong, and a lot of skill - Linus kind of kept us in it in the start when we were a little flat and then we were able to stick with it and find our game," he said. "It was another team effort tonight."

Indeed, the games against St. Louis and Nashville had plenty in common. In both games, the two teams were never separated by more than one goal. Both found the Sabres protecting a one-goal lead for the better half of the third period. 

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger felt his team's job defending its lead on Tuesday was the best of the season. It carried over into Thursday, which ended with the same six Sabres on the ice in an empty-net situation: Ullmark, Eichel, Girgensons, Larsson, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Henri Jokiharju. 

"Nashville never gave up, never stopped pushing," Krueger said. "They're just so dangerous offensively. I thought the guys did an excellent job at defending down the stretch. There was pressure on us right through, but we battled hard - really hard. 

"Lots of shot lanes, lots of one-on-one in the corners. It was just an outstanding hockey game all around."

Video: POSTGAME: Krueger

Which brings us back to Eichel, who pulled a puck off the goal line early in the third period to prevent what would have been a go-ahead goal for the Predators. It's the type of defensive play that Krueger has lauded all season long, and a big part of why Eichel feels he's playing the best hockey of his young career.

"I'd have to say so," he said. "Obviously when you get on a run like this and the team's playing well, you're just really trying to do the little things every night. It's rewarding. You try and take care of your end and try and be responsible and not do too much, I think good things happen. I've been fortunate. 

"I've gotten some good bounces, I've had some good breaks lately, and our team's been playing really well so you put those things together, I'm the beneficiary of a lot of really good hockey plays out there and just trying to keep it going. Obviously, you find confidence when you go through a streak like this and it's no different for me."


Remembering The Aud

Video: Aud Night Video Open

Sixteen alumni from the 1980s were in attendance as the Sabres remembered their beloved first home, Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The list of legends included a trio of Sabres Hall of Famers in Dave Andreychuk, Mike Foligno, and Larry Playfair. 

See them take the ice prior to puck drop below: 

Video: NSH@BUF: Sabres honor legends from the 1980s

Commemorative t-shirts were placed over the seats in KeyBank Center, replicating The Aud's original color scheme. Click here for photos from the night's festivities.

The next decade themed night will be held on Saturday, Jan. 4, when the Sabres celebrate the '90s.


Up next

The Sabres visit the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. Coverage on MSG begins at 12:30 p.m., or you can listen to the game on WGR 550. The puck drops at 1. 

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