Happiness all around in home finale
Eichel first to 80 points since ‘08
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.
Jack Eichel raises his stick after scoring in the third period against Ottawa Thursday. The goal gave Buffalo a 4-2 lead.