Maybe Jack Eichel realized that the Sabres have had pretty miserable luck in the shootouts this year as he skated alone into the Carolina zone with time fading in the overtime period; Buffalo is 2-6 in the shootout for 2015-2016, at one point dropping five in a row this season.
It seemed that today’s matinee against the Hurricanes was destined to go beyond overtime until the very few seconds. Evander Kane flipped the puck high to center ice, where Eichel picked it up and took it into the Carolina zone unopposed. He drew longtime Carolina netminder Cam Ward far out of the net and sent a graceful backhand between Ward’s legs to give Buffalo the win with just one second remaining on the clock.
“I’ve been pretty lucky; I’ve been the benefactor of playing with two really good players and a lot of really good passes lately,” said a smiling Eichel following the contest. “I think, more than anything, you just want to try to stay consistent.”
Eichel continued that desired consistency in a big way this game. He’s earned points in five of his last six games, with goals in four of them.
His overtime game-winner wasn’t the only time he found the back of the net this afternoon. His first on the day came early in the second period, where he was the recipient of some sleek passing from teammates Kane and Sam Reinhart before tapping it past Ward on the doorstep of the Carolina net.
Lost in the chaos of Eichel’s feats was Marcus Foligno with another dramatic tally. Foligno opened the scoring for the Sabres at 7:52 of the second period when he intercepted an attempted clear by the Hurricanes. He spun with the puck and hurled it past Ward just as he toppled to the ice for his ninth on the season.
Foligno’s goal came just one minute and ten seconds after Carolina netted their first of two goals on the day, producing a deadlock on the scoreboard that head coach Dan Bylsma fixated on in his post-game press conference.
“It was especially big given how the game had gone. The building went dead [following Carolina’s first goal] and I thought a little bit disappointed with that and how the game was unfolding at that point in time, and to come back with the shift that we did, where the big play by [Brian] Gionta on the forecheck to get his stick on that to give us an opportunity to score and get us back in the game I thought was a huge response goal.” – Dan Byslma
Sabres netminder Chad Johnson also quietly had another stellar outing. He foiled 28 of Carolina’s 30 shots on net, including yet another diving reach across the crease that has seemed to become his trademark this season. The win was Johnson’s 4th in a row while starting in between the pipes and his 16th on the year, lifting him just one shy of his regular season record, which he amassed with the Boston Bruins back in the 2013-2014 season.
The Sabres will now have a few days off before they return to the ice again. Their next game will be Wednesday, the 16th against the Montreal Canadiens, who they fell to in a 3-2 decision just last Thursday. That game against Montreal will start at 7:00 PM from the First Niagara Center.