Sabres' Eichel came through when it meant the most

Jack Eichel said he had been putting pressure on himself to produce

Paul Hamilton
January 17, 2019 - 3:04 am

Photo: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports


Calgary, AB (WGR 550) - In the first intermission when I was on with Brian Koziol, I talked about Jack Eichel hitting the post on a clear breakaway and missing over the net when Sam Reinhart set him up alone in front. I talked about how your superstar player has to come through for you on those opportunities if you’re going to have any chance to win against a good team like Calgary.

Eichel had gone five games without a point and his team was desperately missing his production. Listen, I think Eichel has been exceptional this season, on and off the ice, but this team is in crisis right now. They were getting further and further out of the playoff race and they needed him to come through in the clutch and that’s exactly what he did.

Eichel played the whole 1:10 of the overtime and did exactly what good leaders and superstar players do. He dug down deep then beat Calgary’s best defensemen and won the game. That was after hitting the post in overtime too.

I said the same thing after the game at San Jose in October. The team was sliding and Eichel was slumping. I told Brian it falls on him and he had to pull them out of it, and he responded with his best games in Los Angeles and Anaheim.

It may not be fair, but Eichel wants that pressure. He wants people to look to him to be the clutch player. I asked him if he agreed with me and he did, "When things aren’t going well you want to be one of the guys to make a difference. Hopefully that goal can get me going again and it’s just what I needed."

It wasn’t just the overtime winner. The goal by Rasmus Dahlin wouldn’t have happened if Eichel didn’t use his speed to get in behind the defense and start the cycle.

The Sabres played a pretty decent first period, but in the end, they gave up a goal with half a second left and left trailing.

It was a long shot by Elias Lindholm that Linus Ullmark stopped, but kicked out a huge rebound. Zach Bogosian had his back to Johnny Gaudreau and he made no mistake.

The Gaudreau goal really seemed to deflate the Sabres for the first half of the second period. They were back to giving the puck away and relying on their goaltender.

Ullmark put himself in a jackpot, giving the puck away behind the net. He sprawled back to the front of the net and absolutely robbed Michael Frolik.

About nine minutes into the period, Casey Mittelstadt put Evan Rodrigues in alone with a perfect stretch pass and it was 1-1. From that point forward, the Sabres played well the rest of the second period.

The second period was also the last save that David Rittich made for Calgary. Buffalo scored on both their shots in the third period and its only shot of the overtime.

I need to say that I thought that was the best game Lawrence Pilut played as a Sabre. His passes were crisp, on the tape and on time. He competed hard in his own end and won many of the battles. Pilut was paired with Rasmus Ristolainen.

I wasn’t sure how they were going to do it, but the Sabres needed to get a win against the NHL’s second best team. There were times they played well and there were times where Ullmark held them in, but they stayed together and got two points, which is all that matters.

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