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5 Observations: Eichel, Sabres top Senators 5-4

Posted at 11:47 PM, Nov 29, 2016

You can’t make this stuff up. On Jack Eichel’s third shift he dished out a beautiful cross-ice pass that lead to a Kyle Okposo power play goal. Minutes later, Eichel caused Buffalo Twitter to explode, with his first goal of the season, on only his fourth shift. While the Sabres started quick, they cooled off after the first 20 minutes, but were able to snap a two-game skid with a 5-4 win over the Ottawa Senators. Five observations from Tuesday’s win:

Hello, old friend

It only took Jack Eichel 9:31 into his first game of the season to find the back of the net. Eichel fired a gorgeous Steven Stamkos like one-timer past Craig Anderson on the Sabres second power play of the night.

This will be the play Sabres fans talk about, and rightfully so, but he did so much more in his first game, proving that he’s one of the NHL’s budding young superstars.

Admittedly, I didn’t expect Eichel to make such an impact early on, but I was clearly wrong. On his first shift he toe dragged a defender and made him look silly. On his second shift the Sabres cycled in Ottawa’s end thanks to a nice play at the point by Eichel. A few minutes later the Sabres found themselves on their first power play of the evening and it only took them seven seconds to start the party, just look at this pass.

Over the course of the game Eichel certainly cooled off, but his presence was undoubtedly felt. Aside from a shift without a stick and a third period delay of game penalty Eichel looked great. His beautiful long stride looked like it did last season. He doesn’t appear to have lost a step, so just like we’ve sarcastically said so many times – maybe, just maybe, everything is fine.

Goals, goals, goals

Kyle Okposo

Jack Eichel

Ryan O’Reilly

Sam Reinhart

These are the guys who are supposed to score for the Sabres and on Tuesday they did. I don’t expect the Sabres to start averaging four a game, but it was refreshing to see their best players find the back of the net in the same game. In Buffalo’s first 21 games their biggest goal scoring problem has been their lack of contribution from their entire lineup, and that’s what we saw yet again on Tuesday. The return of Eichel and the Sabres starting to get healthy will help with this – but the Sabres need players like Evander Kane, Zemgus Girgensons and Derek Grant to start scoring some goals.

The first power play unit – my goodness

Monday the Sabres spent a good chunk or practice working on their man advantage. It worked. Buffalo finished the night with three power play goals and displayed some really impressive and consistent pressure, especially early.

Lehner leaves in first

After the game Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said that Robin Lehner is day to day after suffering a hip injury late in the first period. It happened on what looked like a harmless play with Lehner about ten feet outside of his crease plying the puck. After making a pass Lehner slowly skated backwards towards the net, grabbing the back of his leg. When the whistle blew, Lehner immediately went to the locker room.

In the second period Lehner returned to the bench in full equipment at the start of the second, but was only there for a few minutes. Nilsson stepped in and played pretty shaky compared to what we've seen from him early in the season. While day to day is a promising early prognosis, it's a very flexible term -- Dmitry Kulikov has been sidelined with a day to day injury for several weeks now.

It was a tale of three periods:

First period – one of the Sabres best periods of the season. They scored three goals and looked like a different team.

Second period – one of the Sabres worst periods of the season. Buffalo was outshot in the second 17-4 and looked like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off in their own end. If it wasn’t for a weird deflection off Sam Reinhart’s skate the Sabres would have surrendered their lead, rather than having a one-goal advantage heading into the third.

Third period -- This was a lot like what we’ve seen from the Sabres all year. Ottawa outshot Buffalo 11-10 but the Sabres and Senators traded goals in the final 20 minutes. The Senators were the better team in third and generated more chances especially as the game was dying down, but a late penalty ultimately cost them.

NHL teams won’t win every period they play – but usually, winning two out of three is a good formula for success. Tuesday they got away with only winning one, but that won’t always happen.