Eichel scores twice, Sabres snap Devils’ 5-game streak
NEWARK, N.J. — There have not been a lot of feel-good moments for the Buffalo Sabres this season. However, in their final game of the calendar year Friday night at the Prudential Center, the Sabres secured a memorable 4-3 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Buffalo (10-20-8) rallied from a two-goal deficit on two Jack Eichel goals, and then won it 2:37 into overtime on Rasmus Ristolainen’s first goal since April 5.
“This is a huge win for us,” said Eichel, who has seven goals in his last six games and 15 on the season. “That’s a really good hockey team. We’re down a goal on the road in the third period and we find a way to come back and get two points. Hats off to us.”
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Devils (22-9-6), who were attempting to sweep a six-game homestand for the first time in franchise history. Despite the overtime defeat, New Jersey secured at least one point in the standings for the eighth consecutive game (6-0-2).
“I thought we played pretty well for a lot of the game,” Devils alternate captain Taylor Hall said. “I thought we controlled it. They had a good push in the third period. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Trailing 3-1 late in the second period after a pair of New Jersey goals, Buffalo started its comeback when Eichel’s deflection that beat Devils netminder Cory Schneider at 18:05.
“The difference for me was that goal at the end of the second,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “That was huge for us to get back to one.”
The Sabres then controlled play most of the third period. They finally tied the game on Eichel’s power-play blast at 11:04, Buffalo’s first power-play goal in seven games and only its 14th all season.
Just 1:17 after Eichel tied the game, the Devils appeared to regain the lead on Hall’s breakaway goal. However, the on-ice goal call was overruled after video review showed Hall to be offside on the play and the score remained tied.
“In my head, I was trying to keep my foot down onside as long as possible, but I also wanted to get some separation for a breakaway,” Hall said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. If we’re on the other side of that, you want the right call.”
The Sabres almost took the lead themselves, and Eichel nearly completed the hat trick at 18:36, but his deflection hit the post behind Schneider.
In overtime, Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner made outstanding saves on New Jersey rookies Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt before Ristolainen capped the comeback by bulling past Devils defenseman John Moore and beating Schneider from in close.
“Every time we’re in overtime, I enjoy it,” said Ristolainen, whose team is only 2-8 in overtime this season. “You have a chance to win the game, and I got the bounce there in the corner and took the puck to the net. We wanted to win and I think the will of everyone came out.”
New Jersey’s Miles Wood scored the only goal of the first period, pushing a loose puck just inside the post off a scramble at 13:35, his 10th of the season to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.
The Sabres pulled even 5:27 into the second period when Jacob Josefson, New Jersey’s 2009 first-round pick, beat Schneider on a breakaway after a Blake Coleman turnover at the other end of the rink.
Josefson’s goal seemed to wake the home team up, and the Devils responded with a pair of goals six minutes apart to take a 3-1 lead.
Marcus Johansson scored on the power play at 8:34, his fifth goal of the season and third in two games against the Sabres. Moore then drove his fifth goal through a Brian Boyle screen and past Lehner at 14:44.
However, that’s when the Sabres started their rally, one that lifts them into the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day against the New York Rangers at Citi Field.
“I’m just really proud of the guys,” Housley said. “Now Monday, we’re looking forward to it. We’re going to enjoy it.”
NOTES: Devils G Cory Schneider started for the eighth consecutive game, his longest streak of the season. ... The Devils assigned D Dalton Prout to AHL Binghamton after he cleared waivers earlier on Friday. ... New Jersey scratched RW Jimmy Hayes, RW Drew Stafford and D Ben Lovejoy. ... Sabres D Jake McCabe played in his 200th NHL game. ... Sabres C Jack Eichel extended his point-scoring streak to four straight games by scoring a pair of goals. ... The Sabres scratched D Josh Gorges, D Victor Antipin and C Scott Wilson.