Hap­pi­ness all around in home fi­nale

Eichel first to 80 points since ‘08

The Buffalo News - - NHL - By Lance Lysowski NEWS SPORTS RE­PORTER

Sam Rein­hart watched and waited near the net. Jack Eichel took care of the rest.

Eichel in­ter­cepted a pass in the right face­off cir­cle, stick-han­dled away from two de­fend­ers to reach the end boards and made a no-look, back­hand pass to the front of the net dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod Thurs­day night.

Rein­hart stopped the puck with the blade of his stick and fired a wrist shot into the back of the net. The re­mark­able in­di­vid­ual ef­fort by Eichel gave the Buf­falo Sabres their first lead in seven games, and they rewarded their fans with a 5-2 win over the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors in the fi­nal game in­side KeyBank Cen­ter this sea­son.

The Sabres (32-39-10) fin­ished with 21 home wins, their most since 2011-12, and snapped an eight-game win­less streak. They had lost 15 of their pre­vi­ous 16 games and went 3-18-3 in their pre­vi­ous 24 games. Their sea­son will end on the road Satur­day night in Detroit.

Buf­falo twice ral­lied from a one-goal deficit, re­ceiv­ing power-play goals from Vic­tor Olof­s­son and Kyle Ok­poso. Eichel pushed the lead to two goals when he scored his 28th of the sea­son with 8:54 left in reg­u­la­tion. The 22-year-old cap­tain added two as­sists, and Ja­son Pom­inville scored his 16th goal of the sea­son to make the score 5-2.

Carter Hut­ton, making his 50th ap­pear­ance of the sea­son, made 21 saves in goal for the Sabres, who had 40 shots on goal.

An­thony Du­clair and JeanGabriel Pageau scored first­pe­riod goals for the Se­na­tors (29-46-6). Goalie Joey Dac­cord, who be­came the first Ari­zona State player to sign an NHL con­tract, made his pro­fes­sional de­but.

Open­ing salvo: The Se­na­tors broke the score­less tie at 2:03 into the game when de­fense­man Cody Ceci’s slap shot was de­flected over Hut­ton’s shoul­der by Du­clair.

Goalof­s­son: Olof­s­son, a 23-year-old rookie play­ing his fifth ca­reer NHL game, scored a power-play goal to tie the score, 1-1, by one-tim­ing a pass from Ras­mus Dahlin at 8:40 into the first pe­riod.

With a pri­mary as­sist, Dahlin recorded his 42nd point of the sea­son and trails only Phil Hous­ley for the sec­ond­most points ever recorded by an NHL de­fense­man be­fore his 19th birthday.

Quick an­swer: In true form, the Sabres quickly al­lowed a goal af­ter scor­ing. Hut­ton quickly scram­bled around the crease and turned his back away from the net when he lost sight of the puck im­me­di­ately af­ter a blocker save, and Pageau back­handed a shot into the net for a 2-1 lead with 10:50 left in the first pe­riod.

For­tu­itous bounce: Ok­poso tied the score, 2-2, with a power-play goal at 6:12 into the sec­ond pe­riod, when the puck went to him af­ter Conor Sheary’s shot de­flected off Se­na­tors de­fense­man Chris­tian Jaros’ skate.

Alea­dat­last: Eichel made a no-look cen­ter­ing pass to Rein­hart, who gave the Sabres a 3-2 lead at 8:28 into the sec­ond pe­riod. In ad­di­tion to Rein­hart scor­ing his 21st goal of the sea­son, he broke Buf­falo’s streak of 21 con­sec­u­tive pe­ri­ods with­out lead­ing.

80: With his third-pe­riod goal, Eichel be­came the first Sabres player to record 80 points in a sea­son since Derek Roy (81) and Pom­inville (80) did so in 2007-08.

Pos­si­ble goodbye: This was pos­si­bly Pom­inville’s fi­nal home game with the Sabres. The 36-year-old winger is an un­re­stricted free agent this off­sea­son and was emo­tional fol­low­ing the morn­ing skate, ask­ing to be ex­cused af­ter shed­ding tears dur­ing an in­ter­view with re­porters.

Pom­inville served as an al­ter­nate cap­tain for the game and, along with Ok­poso, es­corted the Sabres’ fan of the year, 95-year-old Anna Marie Szczepan­ski, to cen­ter ice for the cer­e­mo­nial pregame puck drop. Pom­inville then started the game along­side Olof­s­son and Eichel.

Team awards: The fol­low­ing Sabres were an­nounced as re­cip­i­ents of the team’s awards: Hut­ton (Un­sung Hero), Dahlin (Rookie of the Year), de­fense­man Zach Bo­gosian (Man of the Year) and Eichel (Most Valu­able Player).

Lineup: Bo­gosian (lower body) and for­ward Vladimir Sobotka (up­per body) re­main day-to-day and did not par­tic­i­pate in the Sabres’ morn­ing skate. How­ever, Matt Hun­wick (up­per body) did skate but re­mained a scratch, along with fel­low de­fense­man Matt Ten­nyson.

Next: The Sabres are sched­uled to prac­tice Fri­day in prepa­ra­tion for Satur­day’s sea­son fi­nale in Detroit.

Harry Scull Jr./Buf­falo News

Jack Eichel raises his stick af­ter scor­ing in the third pe­riod against Ot­tawa Thurs­day. The goal gave Buf­falo a 4-2 lead.

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