Marcus Johansson, Curtis Lazar, and Conor Sheary stepped onto the ice for their first shift Tuesday with the Sabres already trailing the Detroit Red Wings, 1-0.
The score was tied by the time they returned to the bench.
The goal - scored from the slot by Sheary just 63 seconds into the contest - proved not only to be an important moment for the Sabres, but a sign of things to come for the newly formed forward line in what ended as a 3-2 victory at KeyBank Center.
Sure, it was the Sabres' top line that broke a 2-2 tie in the third period, on a goal from Sam Reinhart. But it was the offense from Johansson, Lazar, and Sheary that got them there. After assisting on Sheary's early goal, Johansson scored one of his own to erase a 2-1 deficit in the second.
"That's the kind of effort we need," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "We can't just rely on Jack's line to carry it all the time. For us to rise up to the challenges ahead here with … these four-point games coming up here against Columbus, against Toronto, teams like that where we can really make a move here, we need everybody involved offensively and defensively. So, that gives us some good confidence going into these next games."
Video: Reinhart, Johansson lift Sabres to victory
Johansson missed Sunday's game against Anaheim due to an illness. He returned Tuesday morning skating on the wing rather than at center, where he has spent most of the season.
His chemistry with Lazar and Sheary was apparent early. After Darren Helm put the Red Wings on the board 27 seconds into the contest, an errant stretch pass Tyler Bertuzzi found Jake McCabe in the Buffalo zone. McCabe quickly countered to Sheary, who initiated the rush sequence that ended with his goal.
Video: DET@BUF: Sheary buries one-timer from the slot
It was a crucial moment for a team that had been forced to play catchup in its last two home games, one of which was a shootout loss to the Red Wings last Thursday.
"I think it was big for us to get back in it right away, get some energy for ourselves, show that we're not just going to lay down because they scored," Johansson said.
The moments kept coming. Another quick counter from McCabe to Lazar early in the second period resulted in a partial breakaway for Conor Sheary, which led to an unsuccessful penalty shot. Sheary set Lazar up for a chance in front of the net later in the period, ending with a penalty drawn by Brandon Montour.
It was Johansson, however, who delivered the response after Helm scored again to make it 2-1. Rasmus Dahlin set the play up by skating into the center of four Red Wings defenders before dropping a pass back to Johansson, who picked the near-side corner from the right circle.
Video: DET@BUF: Johansson wires home wrist shot on the rush
Johansson admitted that the return to the wing, where he spent most of his career prior to this season, helped him find comfortable situations on offense. His teammates were glad to see it.
"He's one of the favorites in this room here," Carter Hutton said following a 27-save performance. "It was a big night for him, so that was huge, too."
The secondary scoring set the stage for Buffalo's top line to win the game in the final period. Johansson was involved once again, sending a pass to set up Henri Jokiharju for a shot from the point. Jack Eichel got his stick on the rebound, then Reinhart pushed it over the goal line.
"I think we did a good job tonight of keeping our mindset short and focusing on the task at hand," Reinhart said. "I think Jo, Shears and some other guys really stepped up when maybe we weren't at our best at the start."
Video: POSTGAME: Hutton
The goaltender made 37 saves in a victory at Madison Square Garden on Friday, then missed Sunday's game due to a family circumstance. He played a key role in shutting the door on the Red Wings during a 10-save third period, which included a breakaway stop on Dylan Larkin.
Hutton now has three wins in five starts since reclaiming the starting role in the wake of an injury to Linus Ullmark.
"Hutts has been unbelievable for us," Johansson said. "I think it feels just because we lose a game or two it's like everything falls on the goalies or whatever it is, and that's not the case. I think he's been playing unbelievable.
"Some games it just hasn't really bounced his way. But I think in New York he was outstanding, probably one of our biggest parts we won that game, and I think tonight when we needed it, he was standing on his head and made some huge saves and kept us in the game."
Eichel reaches 70 points
He's the 14th player in franchise history to record at least 70 points in back-to-back seasons and the first since Derek Roy in 2007-08 (81) and 2008-09 (70). Eichel tallied a career-high 82 points last season.
Check out the tweet below for a list of Sabres who took the fewest games to reach the 70-point mark.
The Sabres host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. It will be 2000s Night, with Daniel Briere, Brian Campbell, Tim Connolly, and Jason Pominville among the alumni scheduled to attend. The Presidents' Trophy will be on display on the 100 level concourse for fans to take photos.
Click here for more information.
Can't make it downtown? Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. You can also listen to the game on WGR 550, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.