BUFFALO – For 10 seconds during the first minute of Thursday’s overtime, Sabres captain Jack Eichel stood behind his own net to recharge as his teammates changed.
Possession is critical in three-on-three overtime, especially with Edmonton Oilers superstars Conor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl lurking nearby.
So Eichel wasn’t about to give the puck up. The center waited and waited and waited before the capacity crowd of 19,070 inside KeyBank Center.
At that point, Eichel had endured a rough night, generating little offense for one of the few times this season.
“I wasn’t very good tonight, I don’t know if you noticed,” Eichel said after scoring on a penalty shot to clinch a 3-2 win, ending the Sabres’ four-game losing streak.
Eichel possesses superstar-level talent, and even on his worst nights he can take over a game.
So Eichel zoomed out from behind the net and past Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom, who began hectoring him as he roared in on goalie Mike Smith.
When the referee raised him arm, Sabres coach Ralph Krueger figured he was calling a hooking penalty. Instead, he pointed to center ice to signal a penalty shot.
“We were pleased that happened that way,” Krueger said.
Eichel skated wide to the left on the penalty shot – “Just trying to throw the timing off and maybe his angle,” he said – before shooting from the slot.
“You’re in tight on a goalie like that, the ice isn’t good, just try to keep it simple,” he said.
The goal was the Sabres’ first on a penalty shot in overtime in team history and the seventh overtime winner of Eichel’s career, a new team record.
But the Sabres, who fell behind 2-0 seven minutes into game, suffered a potentially huge loss.
Winger Victor Olofsson left the game after passing the puck to defenseman Zach Bogosian seconds before linemate’s Sam Reinhart’s tying goal 3:53 into the third period.
Olofsson, who was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for December earlier in the day, appeared to get one of his skates caught in the ice.
Krueger had no update on Olofsson. He said the Sabres will know more today.
“We’ll deal with whatever the situation is,” he said.
Olofsson, perhaps the top Calder Trophy candidate, has scored 14 goals and 35 points in 42 games this season. Rookie Rasmus Asplund subbed for Olofsson beside Eichel and Reinhart late in the game.
“It’s not good by any means,” Eichel said of Olofsson’s injury. “It’s tough to see, tough to see. He’s been so good for us all year and we rely on him in so many situations. I know for myself and Reino, we’ve really enjoyed playing with him and on the power plays, he’s such a threat and big part of our team.”
Center Curtis Lazar scored the Sabres’ other goal. Goalie Linus Ullmark made 25 saves.