by Anthony Fiorello
The Buffalo Sabres came back from a two-goal deficit and scored four straight to take down the Los Angeles Kings 6-3.
The Sabres’ win puts them back at the .500 mark and the six goals scored matches a season-high which was set against Edmonton on October 16th.
“You get the second, third, fourth goal, and you forget about the mistake you make,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “When you’re getting one or less goals a game, every mistake is magnified. We had a few of those kerfuffles that cause goals in a game against a good team. I think you start to squeeze the stick a little bit and wonder where this was going.
“It’s a credit to the guys that they took charge of the game and took the game over, and erased whatever mistake there was earlier on.”
Early on, it appeared as if it would be the Kings’ game for the taking. L.A. took a 1-0 lead shortly after the first period started with a goal from Anze Kopitar as the Kings crashed Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner’s crease looking for a rebound. Trevor Lewis and Jake Muzzin assisted on Kopitar’s score.
Seven minutes into the second period, a turnover by Buffalo in their own zone and the work of Tyler Toffoli and Derek Forbort lead to a breakaway by Jeff Carter, who promptly scored on Lehner. Then the Sabres woke up.
Within a span of 4:17, three Buffalo goals gave the Sabres a lead they would never relinquish. On a display of will and grit, Ryan O’Reilly took the puck while Buffalo was in the midst of a cycle and, while shrugging off a defender or two, lofted a backhanded shot past Kings goaltender Peter Budaj.
“I was just getting frustrated,” O’Reilly said. “The first goal was clearly my fault, then being out there again… I’ve got to create offense and not get scored on. I was frustrated and tried to regroup and provide some offense.”
From there, a snowball effect occurred. While the Sabres were again attempting to execute a cycle while in L.A. territory, Jack Eichel attempted to get the puck back to his teammates on the halfwall, but his errant pass instead went past Budaj and tied the game up.
“I was just coming up the halfwall there, it was a good cycle by (Okposo) and it was a quick switch,” Eichel said. “I saw one of our guys in front of the net and it was kind of a one-on-one situation. I was just trying to put it there. I hadn’t gotten one in a while so I’m fortunate it squeaked by him.”
12 seconds later, Brian Gionta deflected a shot from Justin Falk into the net to give Buffalo a 3-2 lead. Kings coach Darryl Sutter then pulled Budaj, bringing in Jeff Zatkoff to give him some work but to no avail. Two minutes later, Eichel notched his second tally of the contest on a wrist shot that beat Zatkoff blocker-side.
“Once we got on a roll, we stayed with it,” O’Reilly said. “To see goal after goal, you could just feel the life in the building, and everything just changed. You could tell that we took the game over, and that’s by us being mature, taking advantage of those momentum swings and just finding ways to score goals.”
In the third period, Carter scored his second of the game after a controversial no-icing call led to him launching a snapshot past Lehner. The Kings would try and tie the game up, but a goal by Evander Kane would give the Sabres a two-goal lead again. Eichel and Kyle Okposo assisted on the goal, the third of three points for each of them (two goals and an assist for Eichel, three assists for Okposo).
Sam Reinhart iced the game on an empty-netter with 25.9 seconds left to play.
“Our mindset was that’s not going to be the one that gets them back in the game, that’s not going to be the one that gets the momentum,” Bylsma said. “It was a game we earned with how hard we played and they needed it.”
Friday, Dec. 16: NY Islanders at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 17: Buffalo at Carolina, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 20: Buffalo at Florida, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 22: Carolina at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 23: Buffalo at NY Islanders, 7 p.m.