Jason Pominville considered himself lucky his team had a lead, giving him a chance to soak in the moment.
An afternoon that began with Pominville being recognized for his 1,000th NHL game ended with fans counting the Buffalo Sabres' goals aloud and asking for another. Pominville scored two of them as part of a three-point outing in a 9-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
It was the most goals the Sabres have scored in a game since winning 10-2 in Edmonton on Jan. 27, 2009. (Pominville tallied two assists in that game.) Between the goals were messages on the video board from Pominville's family and teammates, from Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek to Zach Bogosian and Jack Eichel.
"Thank God we had the lead and I could look up and enjoy it a little bit more," Pominville said. "... I wanted to make sure I enjoyed the moment and took the time to hear what everyone had to say, and I think for the most part I did. I'm sure I'll have a chance to probably hear a bunch of the messages again.
"It was a great day. The Sabres did a great job, great presentation, I feel very fortunate to call this home and have the support of the fans that I have."
Video: Pominville reacts to emotional game
Pominville became a fan favorite during his first tenure with the organization, helping take the Sabres to the playoffs in four of his first six seasons. The atmosphere in KeyBank Center felt a bit like it did in those days as the Sabres offered their best offensive output in nearly a decade.
Kyle Okposo tallied his fourth goal in six games to open the scoring. Jeff Skinner (2+1) and Jack Eichel (0+3) had three-point nights. Conor Sheary, Zemgus Girgensons Patrik Berglund, and Casey Mittelstadt each added a goal and an assist.
The Sabres seemed to pick up where they left off in Ottawa on Thursday, when they outshot the Senators 23-7 in the third period but were unable to erase a three-goal deficit. The shots were in their favor again on Saturday, 41-29.
"I think we knew that if we played that certain way there that we played in the third in Ottawa, I thought we would have success," Eichel said. I thought we were good in our own zone, I thought we were good in the neutral zone and I thought that we played as a five-man unit. That's why we had so many chances offensively."
The line of Skinner, Eichel and Pominville continued its dominant run with a combined nine points. Since joining together in Los Angeles on Oct. 20, they're the top three scorers in the NHL. Skinner has 13 points in that span (8+5), Pominville has 13 (7+6) and Eichel has 12 (1+11).
"I think we've just been getting more and more familiar with each other every day. The two of them are really good around the net," Eichel said. "I think I'm more of a distribute-first guy, and I think it's just been working out, the three of us together. When we're taking care of the puck and we're getting it in and we're playing in their end and cycling it, I think we've had a lot of success."
"A lot of success" might be an understatement. Take a look at these individual notes from Sabres PR regarding the NHL's hottest line:
• Skinner has scored 30 goals in three separate seasons during an eight-year career, but he's never had a 10-game stretch as productive as the 15-point run he's on now. His plus-12 rating leads the NHL alongside Nashville's Filip Forsberg.
• Pominville is now performing at a point-per-game pace this season. He has points seven straight games, which is his longest streak since March 2013.
• Eichel leads the Sabres with 17 points in 14 games. That's a 99-point pace.
Skinner was asked if their line could possibly perform any better.
"You can always be better," he said. "You always work on little things, I think. I think it's been fun. We sort of read off each other pretty well. You're always looking to improve, just like I think better teams are always looking to improve. We'll keep working at."
Skinner and Pominville scored three of the first four goals, but then the floodgates opened for others to contribute. Sheary scored on a breakaway, ending an eight-game drought. Berglund and Girgensons were finally rewarded after playing a vital role on a checking line with Johan Larsson in recent games.
As their goal total rose, so did the atmosphere in the building. A familiar chant rung from the stands: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight … We want nine!
The last time the Sabres scored nine goals at home was Jan. 18, 2008 against the Atlanta Thrashers (coincidentally, the Thrashers are the team depicted in the background of the painting given to Pominville prior to the game).
Eichel chuckled when asked if he could hear the crowd.
"Yeah, of course," he said. "For us, obviously, it's been a tough few years in terms of our play here at home. I think that's something we're trying to take more pride in, is playing better in front of our home fans. It was great to see them pack the building for Pommer's ceremony.
"They just seemed so engaged throughout the game. Whenever you're able to get off to a start and get a lead and score a lot of goals, it definitely helps get them into it."
It's appropriate that the numbers on the scoreboard at the end we're a 2 and a 9, the same digits Pominville's made famous in Buffalo over the course of 1,001 games and counting. Skinner, a Sabre for less than a month, left the game with a better sense of what his linemate means to the city.
"It's kind of cliché, people throw it around, but that video kind of gives you chills, I think. Even me, I don't really know him, but to see sort of the impact he's had on people, on the community, and sort of in the game of hockey it's … I don't know, it's tough to describe.
"But I think when everyone comments on it and tried to put it into words, you get a little bit of a small picture of it."
The night began with a ceremony honoring Pominville, who was joined on the ice by his family, teammates and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula. Terry opened by sharing a message to Pominville before presenting him with a commemorative Sabre:
Video: OTT@BUF: Sabres celebrate Pominville for 1,000 games
Congratulatory messages were aired throughout the game. There was one from his wife, Kim, and his children, Jayden and Kaylee Rose:
Video: Pominville family celebrates #Pommer1000
From current and former teammates:
Video: Former teammates congratulate Pommer
Video: More former teammates congratulate Pominville
Video: Current teammates congratulate Pominville
Video: The Instigators congratulate Pominville
And from longtime fans:
Video: Fans share memories of Pominville
Pominville admitted he got choked up.
"It's tough not to when you see the kids and you see them on the ice and words that were said even during the game," he said. "Kind of fortunate we had a lead and I was able to look up and hear most of them and just a lot of people that meant a lot to me throughout my career and a lot of great players and a lot of great memories with all of them. Yeah, it was pretty emotional at times."
Dahlin leaves with injury
Rasmus Dahlin left the game after blocking a shot in the second period and did not return. Housley said the rookie defenseman is expected to make the trip to New York with the team for their game on Sunday.
Goals, goals, goals
It's only right ythat we include all the highlights from a nine-goal performance. Here they are, in order:
Video: OTT@BUF: Okposo beats Anderson blocker side
Video: OTT@BUF: Skinner pots rebound in front
Video: OTT@BUF: Pominville chases Anderson with rebound goal
Video: OTT@BUF: Skinner finishes Reinhart's great pass
Video: OTT@BUF: Girgensons goes short side to beat McKenna
Video: OTT@BUF: Pominville buries his second rebound goal
Video: OTT@BUF: Sheary roofs a shot to extend the lead
Video: OTT@BUF: Berglund pots loose puck in front
Video: OTT@BUF: Mittelstadt goes top shelf with wrister
The Sabres head to New York to play the Rangers on Sunday night. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show. You can also listen to the game live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.