Victor Olofsson summed up his first NHL game as a bit of a mixed bag. There was plenty of good to build off, some negatives to learn from, and a crossbar that robbed him of his first career goal in the third period.
Olofsson fed Jack Eichel on a breakaway to earn his fist NHL point, tying Buffalo's game against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday with 4:18 remaining in regulation. He also shot wide of the net in overtime, leading to the rush on which Tyler Bertuzzi scored the winning goal in a 5-4 Red Wings victory.
"I feel all right," he said afterward. "It was a lot of fun to play. Some good things out there, I think, and some less good things I have to work on. Overall, I feel like it was a pretty good game."
Video: BUF Recap: Sabres' late rally ends with OT loss
The loss extended the Sabres' winless streak to five games, but the effort was a far cry from their 4-0 defeat in Ottawa on Tuesday. They showed resiliency in erasing a pair of two-goal deficits, bolstered by a youth-infused lineup that Sabres' coach Phil Housley felt added a spark.
Olofsson led the Sabres with five shots and nine attempts and seemed to find instant chemistry on a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Alexander Nylander finished second with four shots and six attempts. William Borgen, Rasmus Dahlin and Lawrence Pilut comprised one half of the defense corps, while Casey Mittelstadt sparked a comeback with a third-period goal.
"I really like the way our young guys played," Housley said. "[Olofsson] had a really good, strong game. He made some plays, had some opportunities, hit the crossbar in the third. Will Borgen continued (to be) steady back there. Casey Mittelstadt, it was good to see he has some jump in his step.
"... It's good to have young guys around, because they have short memories. They want to make a difference. All their intentions are in the right place, they're good people, they're good teammates and they're trying their hearts out."
It was a pair of veterans who brought the Sabres back initially after going down 2-0 at the 1:00 mark of the second period. Kyle Okposo cut the deficit in half with a power-play goal, then Marco Scandella added his second goal in three games to even the score at 2-2 heading into the seond intermission.
Dylan Larkin scored a pair of third-period goals for the Red Wings, giving them a 4-2 lead with 6:56 remaining. The Sabres answered with Mittelstadt's goal less than two minutes later, a patient wrist shot as the rookie drifted into the right faceoff circle.
Video: DET@BUF: Mittelstadt nets kicked pass from Skinner
"I think we all kind of agree that the one in Ottawa is pretty embarrassing," Mittelstadt said. "Tonight was a lot better. I thought we showed a lot of character and a lot of fight. We kept fighting back. It might not have been our best night, but we stuck with it, worked hard and obviously we fought back."
Thirty-one seconds after Mittelstadt scored, Olofsson spun along the right-wing boards and delivered a perfect pass to find Eichel skating alone in the slot. Eichel buried a wrist shot past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard for the tying goal, his 27th of the season.
"I heard him, he was calling for the puck there," Olofsson said. "I was just trying to get it in there in the middle. It was a great finish by him."
Video: DET@BUF: Eichel ties it on Olofsson's first NHL point
Eichel empathized with Olofsson regarding the play in overtime, saying that Olofsson was simply trying to score a goal and that he'd been in that same situation before. Their coach agreed that the late mishap didn't overshadow what was otherwise an impressive debut.
"I thought [Eichel and Reinhart] brought a steady influence and him and really took him under their wing and tried to help him," Housley said. "But he played his own game. He was shooting the puck, he was creating offensively, his wall play was very good. He was very poised."
Olofsson wasn't shy about utilizing his shot whenever possible, which he says is a nightly objective. He thought he had Howard beat in the third, when he caught a feed from Eichel and hit the crossbar.
"Yeah, I thought so," he said. "The puck was standing up a little bit, so I shot it a little bit higher than I wanted to. It would have been nice if that had gone in."
Olofsson and the other young members of the Sabres provided a silver lining on a night when they were unable to get a result, a potential glimpse of what might be to come both in Rochester's playoff run this spring and in Buffalo's future.
Even so, with five games remaining, Eichel remained focused on turning the results in their favor moving forward.
"They bring a spark this time of year," Eichel said of his rookie teammates. "We talked the other night, everyone's playing for something right now and I thought a lot of our young guys brought some really good energy and they fit right in. It was good to see that, on the back end all the way through up front.
"It's good that we didn't quit there, we were down two goals twice and we had some good resiliency, but it's unfortunate. We want to get on the right side of these ones and start feeling good about ourselves here."
The Sabres visit the New York Islanders on Saturday. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.