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5 Observations: Eichel, Sabres top Kings 6-3

Posted at 10:52 PM, Dec 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-13 22:52:36-05

In the words of the one and only Ron Burgundy: "That escalated quickly." The Buffalo Sabres found themselves down 2-0 halfway through the second period — but heated up quicker than a carton of milk on a warm San Diego summer day, scoring four goals in less than seven minutes in the second period.  That stretch proved to be enough, lifting the Sabres to a 6-3 win.

Five observations from Tuesday’s win:

Jack Eichel takes the game over

Jack Eichel tied things up for the Sabres on a pass halfway through the second period.  When you’re that good sometimes things just go your way — but that wasn’t the play that caused KeyBank Center to go bonkers. Just watch this goal:

It was a perfect shift from both Eichel and Kyle Okposo, who cycled the puck in the Kings zone, creating space for Eichel to shoot. Once he finally had the space, Eichel peeled off the boards and curled into the middle of the ice and fired a shot off the pipe and in.

So just how big of an impact does Eichel make?

In the seven games that he’s played this season, the Sabres have 23 goals (3.28 goals per game). It's extremely impressive, especially when you consider the Sabres only had 39 goals in the 21 games (1.85 goals per game) played without Eichel.

Gionta stays hot

Brian Gionta has seven goals in 28 games this season, and is currently on pace to score 21 goals if he stays healthy. Last season Gionta had 12 goals in 79 games, so yes, that’s quite the improvement.

Personally, I don’t think Gionta will get to 20 goals, but his start has been truly impressive and he continues to be one-third of the Sabres most consistent line.

Ristolainen well worth the money

Rasmus Ristolainen has 18 assists this season.

EIGHTEEN.

With two more assists on Tuesday the 21-year-old defenseman now has a point in each of the Sabres last four games and 11 points in the last 10 games.

For some perspective: Ristolainen has eight more assists than Drew Doughty, one more than Kris Letang and only three assists less than Erik Karlsson, an early Norris Trophy (top NHL defender) front-runner. That's pretty elite company if you ask me.

O'Reilly sparks comeback

It wasn't a great start for Ryan O'Reilly, but he certainly made up for it. After the game O'Reilly told reporters that he felt responsible for the Kings first goal... and wouldn't you know it, he was the man to spark the comeback.

"He's our leader, he's a huge player for our team," Eichel said about O'Reilly after the game. "He steps up, makes a huge play for us, scores a beautiful goal, opened it up for us and we were able to get a couple more in the second and got us some momentum." 

If O'Reilly didn't convert on his individual effort in the second period with the Sabres down two goals, I don't think the comeback happens -- just another reminder that Ryan O'Reilly is really good at ice hockey.

Robin Lehner - C+

The Twitter world loves to criticize Robin Lehner, and on Tuesday, the haters were out in full force. After the game, both Lehner and Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said that it wasn't the goaltender's best outing by any stretch of the imagination -- but in the end, he got the job done.

Personally, I think Lehner needs to stop the Kings first and third goals, and after the game, he agreed. When asked if falling behind two goals shook his confidence Lehner wouldn't say much, but he did say it was nice to get some goal support.

"Jack [Eichel], Ryan [O'Reilly], a lot of those guys stepped up and bailed me out a little bit," Lehner said. "After the breakaway goal, the guys just kind of turned it on, we were scoring goals."

Buffalo plays back to back nights after a few days of rest on Friday and Saturday. Although not a surprise, I expect Lehner and Sabres backup goalie Anders Nilsson to split those two games.