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Three takeways from Sabres at Wild

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Some non-Eichel-related thoughts from Buffalo's preseason opener.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Jack Eichel’s heroics were the big story, but here is what else caught my eye during the Sabres 3-2 win over the Wild last night:

1.) Penalty kill comes up big late

The big shorthanded moment was Eichel’s game-winning breakaway, but the penalty kill unit came up big late in the game to seal the Sabres’ win. After giving up a Mikael Granlund power play goal in the second period, Buffalo was a perfect 2-for-2 in the third when defending the lead. That included a successful kill with just over six minutes left in the game and the PK allowed only two shots on the Wild's two third period power plays.

Zemgus Girgensons and Nicolas Deslauriers were a big part of that up top and Cody Franson and Brendan Guhle were impressive on the back end.

Buffalo's defense as a whole improved a lot as the game went on. After conceding 11 shots on goal in the first period, the Sabres gave up just nine the rest of the way, including just three in the third period to preserve the one-goal lead.

2.) Chad Johnson impresses

Goaltending is one of Buffalo’s biggest questions, but Johnson’s first impression in a Sabres uniform might start to quell the concerns about the team’s depth between the pipes.

Johnson played the first 40 minutes last night and turned away 15-of-17 shots before being relieved by Nathan Lieuwen. That included 10-of-11 saves in the first period when Johnson had to keep the Sabres in the game while the Wild dictated possession and monopolized the offensive zone. He was sound positionally and did not allow many second chance opportunities.

Robin Lehner is going to get the chance to prove himself this season as a starter, but Johnson showed he can be a reliable, NHL-quality back up when called upon.

3.) 3-on-3 OT is going to be fun to watch

After regulation, the two teams played an experimental five minute, 3-on-3 overtime period, giving fans and players alike their first look at the NHL's new format. Skill players are going to love having the space the new OT creates and it is going to be exciting to watch.

Eichel, Marcus Foligno, and Mark Pysyk got the start in the 3-on-3 period, but I am having visions of forwards like Eichel, Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, or Tyler Ennis utilizing their speed and skill to maneuver and create chances both in the zone and off the rush.