With 1.8 seconds left on the clock, Jack Eichel was finally able to exhale.
The Buffalo Sabres captain had already broken his career-high in ice time when he stepped in front of New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to block a shot from point-blank range in the game's final minute on Saturday, temporarily protecting his team's one-goal lead.
When the puck was iced to set up another defensive-zone draw, Eichel did it again. This time when he blocked the shot, he sped past Shattenkirk and buried the puck into an empty-net to put the finishing touches on a 3-1 win.
Watching Eichel smile at his stall afterward, the team's opening-night loss to Boston on Thursday felt like a distant memory.
"It's awesome," Eichel said, unaware that his 25:45 of ice time was the highest of his career. "It's great to get a win on home ice. There's a lot of stuff we want to get better and clean up. They played well, give them credit.
"I thought they came at us fast, they transitioned the puck well and our goalie our best player tonight."
Video: Sheary strikes twice as Sabres take down Rangers, 3-1
The goalie in question was Carter Hutton, who made 43 saves and came within minutes of securing his first shutout as a Sabre, broken when Brett Howden scored on the Rangers' 41st shot of the game with 4:39 remaining. Fellow newcomer Conor Sheary added a pair of power-play goals to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead.
Sabres coach Phil Housley promised that learning to win wouldn't be easy, and the game was no exception. The Sabres battled adversity throughout the third period, between a highlight-reel save from Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist on Evan Rodrigues, a Tage Thompson goal that was called back due to a high-stick and the late blow from Howden, which cut their lead in half.
In the end, the Sabres rolled with the punches - and Eichel said he knows his team has more to show.
"I thought we were desperate, and we won battles when we needed to," he said. "It's great to see us get a team win like that and know that we can still play better.
"Overall it's a good team win for us, it's two points, and we should feel good about ourselves."
Video: POSTGAME: Eichel
Here's on Buffalo's first win of the season, beginning with the anchor in net.
Before Howden was responsible for the only blemish on Hutton's night, he was the victim of a save you might see on SportsCenter Sunday morning. A turnover at the Buffalo blue line in the second period led to a 3-on-0 rush, leaving Hutton little time to react.
"I don't know if I can say exactly what was going through my head there, it might not be allowed on the air," Hutton said. "It was one of those ones you just look up and you're like, 'Oh, dear.' I just tried to be patient on it."
Howden, in the middle, passed to Ryan Spooner on his right. Spooner passed across to Jesper Fast, who delivered one final pass back to Howden as the trio closed in on the net.
Hutton lunged to his left and swallowed the shot with his glove.
Video: NYR@BUF: Hutton denies Howden on three-on-none rush
"I think they kind of overplay it," he said. "I think they make one too many passes on it and it gets jammed up. I'm patient enough that I get my edge to push over and make the save. It's something we don't want to get in the habit of giving up, that's for sure."
Hutton was a voice of reason following the team's shutout loss on Thursday, downplaying it for what it was: one game in a season of 82. He led with his play on Saturday, whether he was aggressively playing the puck or swallowing shots to prevent second chances.
"I definitely saw the puck well tonight," he said. "I think that's a real strength of my game, is just feet work, competing to find pucks and tracking, being patient. Tonight, I thought I did a great job on my edges, battling to find pucks and staying on my feet a little longer.
"I find sometimes if I start dropping too early, that's when I get myself in trouble, so I thought tonight I was shifting with the puck well and finding it. It gives me a good chance to eat up a lot of rebounds."
Two for Sheary
Phil Housley swapped Conor Sheary's and Jeff Skinner's spots in search of an offensive spark, both on their forward lines and on the power play. The switch worked for both players - Housley called Skinner "a man possessed" in the offensive zone - but it was Sheary who benefitted on the score sheet.
Sheary scored Buffalo's first goal of the season on the power play with 6:45 remaining in the first period, shooting far-side on Lundqvist on a 2-on-1 rush with Rasmus Ristolainen. He said afterward that the goal was a weight off his shoulders; it snapped a 14-game drought dating back to last season (including playoffs).
Video: NYR@BUF: Sheary nets PPG for first goal as a Sabre
It was a weight off for the Sabres, too. The goal livened the crowd and set the tone for the night.
"Yeah, definitely," Hutton said. "When that first one went in, truthfully, for me it was nice to hear the roar of the crowd."
Sheary's wait for a second goal would be considerably less short. That came 1:42 into the second period, when he buried a feed across the net from Sam Reinhart, with Eichel winning a battle and notching the secondary assist. It was Sheary's first time scoring multiple power-play goals in a single game.
Video: NYR@BUF: Sheary nets tic-tac-toe for second PPG
"We knew this was an important one," he said. "We kind of got spanked in our home opener so we wanted to come out and have a strong effort. It was good to have two points tonight."
The Sabres continue their homestand with a matinee against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 2:30 p.m. the GMC Game Night Pregame Show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 3 p.m.