Eichel leads Sabres over Sens in return
By Don Brennan, The Sports Xchange
OTTAWA -- Before heading to the rink for the last 21 games, Buffalo Sabres winger Sam Reinhart has known where to find his roommate.
“He’s usually parked right on the couch,” said Reinhart. “It’s definitely nicer having him in the (locker) room.”
The roommate, center Jack Eichel, once again became the active and productive teammate, scoring once and assisting on another as the Sabres defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-4 Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
It was the first game of the season for Eichel, who missed seven weeks with a high ankle sprain suffered on the eve of the opener.
Both his points came on the power play, before the game was 10 minutes old.
”There was a lot of energy today just waiting for the game to start,“ said Eichel, who had 24 goals and 32 assists as a rookie last season. ”I think it helps a little bit when you’re able to get a couple of points on the power play, at the beginning of the game. It kind of settles you down.
“I think I was pretty excited in that first period and then in the second period I got a little fatigued. It’s tough to keep the game shape after not playing in a while. I was able to settle and felt better in the third.”
Center Ryan O‘Reilly scored twice and added an assist for the Sabres (8-9-5), who also received goals from wingers Kyle Okposo and Reinhart.
The Sabres entered the night having averaged a league low 1.81 goals per game, and it was not by chance that the offensive outburst coincided with the return of Eichel.
“It’s a momentum thing,” said O‘Reilly. “You watch his line and they’re possessive, and he’s making plays and creating. You kind of feed off it. The power play, too. Once he gets the puck, it’s so tough for people to get it off him. All you have to do is get open and he’s going to create. It shows you what a good little player he is.”
Winger Mike Hoffman scored his first career hat trick for the Senators (14-8-1), who had their winning streak snapped at four games. Winger Mark Stone had the other Ottawa goal.
“I guess it feels good to get the hat trick,” said Hoffman. “But at the end of the day we didn’t win, so that’s the main thing.”
The Sabres lost goalie Robin Lehner to a hip injury that coach Dan Bylsma figures will be a “day-to-day” thing. Lehner left the game with 2:12 to go in the first period after allowing one goal. Anders Nilsson came in to make 26 saves to get the win.
The Senators lost winger Bobby Ryan after just four shifts as he re-aggravated a deep bone bruise in his hand. He’s expected to miss the next game, at least. They also had to do without the services of veteran defenseman Marc Methot, who left the game in the second after delivering a hip check to Sabres rookie Will Carrier. Coach Guy Boucher said his status will be “questionable.”
Craig Anderson made 23 saves in the Senators net.
The Sabres dominated the first period, outscoring Ottawa 3-1 while outshooting the hosts 14-7. The Senators outshot the Sabres 17-4 in the second and were down 4-3 with 20 minutes to go.
“I was hoping that the first period would be better than I thought it would be,” said Boucher. “That’s what happens after three (games) in four (nights), travel and everything else. You’re back home, you’ve done well, you’re in a state where it’s tough to get the urgency back. So we talked about it. But we didn’t do a good job in the first period. That’s what killed us. That’s what sank us.”
The Sabres power play wound up scoring on three of five chances, while the Senators power play was good on two of four opportunities.
”We started slow, they came out flying, their power play was clicking, and we were chasing our tails all night,“ said Anderson, who had allowed five goals in his previous four games. ”Bad luck bounces put us in a hole a little bit, too, right when we thought we were getting back in it.
“We lost the special teams battle. They got three, we got two. You’ve got to win the special teams battle or tie it, to give yourself a chance. Usually we’re pretty good, but we weren’t able to shut those guys down for some reason.”
Both teams next play on Thursday. The Senators will be home to the Philadelphia Flyers while the Sabres will host the New York Rangers.
NOTES: Senators G Craig Anderson is expected to leave the team in the next day or two to be with his wife as she undergoes cancer treatment. Senators G Andrew Hammond has been recalled from Binghamton and will dress as backup to G Mike Condon when Anderson leaves ... Senators D Fredrik Claesson was scratched ... Senators F Max McCormick was also scratched ... Sabres W Will Carrier, who was recalled from Rochester a day earlier, started as the left winger on the first line ... Sabres D Zach Bogosian missed his 13th game with an MCL sprain ... Sabres D Dmitry Kulikov remains week-to-week with a back injury.