Once again, the Sabres found themselves down - this time by a 4-1 count with 15 minutes remaining in the second period. Yet once again, Buffalo rallied back, getting scrappy goals and stealing points from their opponent. Jack Eichel extended his point streak to three games, nabbing the game-winning goal just 45 seconds into overtime.
How did it happen?
It was a painfully, uncharacteristically slow start for the Sabres, who were being outshot 8-3 when the Penguins took a 1-0 lead on Derick Brassard’s second goal of the season. Defensive miscues led to a 2-on-1 for the Penguins, with Rasmus Dahlin the lone Buffalo player back and Carter Hutton unable to rescue his team.
Going down by a goal seemed to spark something for the Sabres, who tied the game less than three minutes later. Tage Thompson registered his first goal as a member of the Sabres organization, feeding off a pass from Sam Reinhart, who was parked in front of the net. Thompson snapped the puck home from the bottom of the face-off circle to Casey DeSmith’s right.
Tage Thompson's first goal with the Sabres off assist from Sam Reinhart— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) November 20, 2018
The Penguins regained their lead several minutes later, when Evgeni Malkin, Tanner Pearson and Phil Kessel combined for a rush. Kessel tipped in a shot from Pearson on Hutton’s left side, with Rasmus Dahlin narrowly trailing him and Sabres forwards gassed on the shift.
Buffalo found itself down 2-1 after twenty minutes, being outshot 15-10 and out-hit 13-6. The Penguins also had eight blocked shots and four takeaways in the first period, but the Sabres limited themselves to just two giveaways.
Just 1:24 into the second period, Jake Guentzel slammed in a rebound to make it 3-1 Pittsburgh. The Sabres challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the officials ruled that there was no goaltender interference as the Penguins player barely grazed Hutton.
Pearson then tipped in a shot on the backhand for his first goal of the season exactly five minutes into the middle frame. Dahlin had a good position on Pearson, but failed to tie up his stick, allowing him to make the backhand for the goal, which made it 4-1 Pittsburgh.
Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella then appeared to suffer an injury on an odd play near the midway point of the game. Scandella blocked a shot from Evgeni Malkin mere feet away; as he fell, he twisted and his stick slapped Malkin in the helmet. As a result of the play, Scandella was actually penalized for high-sticking, but he went to the locker room and didn’t return.
After killing off multiple penalties, including a brief 5-on-3, the Sabres found their way back to the scoresheet, and that’s when the comeback began. Jeff Skinner passed it to Zach Bogosian at the top of the face-off circle, and Bogosian slapped it in for a goal to cut the Penguins’ lead in half.
Near the end of the second period, Casey Nelson’s shot from the point made its way through to the net, deflected by the Penguins’ Jack Johnson in front. Nelson’s first goal of the season means that all Sabres’ defensemen have now scored this season, and just like that, the Sabres had closed the gap to just one.
The Comeback Kids did it again, this time on a goal by Casey Mittelstadt with 8:48 to play in regulation. Mittelstadt’s wrist shot marked his third goal of the season and tied the game at 4.
Carter Hutton made 36 saves in regulation, and the Sabres forced the game to overtime.
As it turned out, the Sabres needed only 45 seconds of extra time to snag the game-winner, as Jack Eichel skated his way backwards into the zone with the puck, turned around and made his way to the net. Eichel shot the puck through the armpit of the Pittsburgh goal, and it trickled into the back of the net to give Buffalo the extra point and yet another victory.
Jack Eichel OT winner— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) November 20, 2018
Sabres win 5-4 pic.twitter.com/7ZWe1bE3pK
Once again, the Sabres stuck with it, didn’t give up and found a way to come back and got not only one point, but the extra, too. They stayed on par with the Penguins, with each team registering 40 shots on goal, and managed three successful penalty kills. Buffalo also only had five giveaways to Pittsburgh’s 13.
Rasmus Ristolainen led all players with 26:56 ice time, while Eichel led all Buffalo forwards, playing 18:24. Eichel also registered six shots on goal, while Vladimir Sobotka and Zemgus Girgensons each had four. Zach Bogosian also had five shots on goal.
It was certainly a rough game at points for youngster Rasmus Dahlin, who finished the game with 22:49 ice time, including four minutes on the power-play, and a minus-2. Dahlin registered two shots, four hits and one block. The 18-year-old is still facing the learning curve of professional North American hockey, and mistakes and miscues are bound to be made.
On the Penguins side, Evgeni Malkin was limited to four shots on goal and had a whopping five giveaways - as much as the entire Sabres team put together. Former Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel finished the game a minus-3. Sidney Crosby was out of the lineup with injury.
With the road trip behind them, the Sabres now prepare for their next test as they host the Philadelphia Flyers for a pre-Thanksgiving matchup on Wednesday night. That game will feature a 7:30 p.m. puck drop and will be nationally televised on NBCSN.