PITTSBURGH – Buffalo Sabres goalie Chad Johnson embraces a simple philosophy following poor outings: Don’t panic, just stick with it.
“I think when you start sitting down and being like, ‘OK, I got to change this, change that, get out here and do this,’ now you’re overthinking instead of saying it was one of those days,” Johnson said Wednesday inside the Consol Energy Center.
Johnson, 29, experienced one of those days Friday, looking shaky in the Sabres’ ugly 7-2 loss to Montreal. He made only 19 saves and looked awful on at least two Canadiens goals.
Following a game off, Johnson, who’s subbing for injured starter Robin Lehner, rebounded nicely, stopping 30 shots in the Sabres’ 4-3 overtime win Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“It was sort of a big rebound game for me,” Johnson said.
Johnson saved the game 1:56 into the three-on-three overtime, stopping Sam Gagner on a two-on-one before sprawling – Johnson called it “desperation mode” – and getting the inside of his blocker on Scott Laughton’s rebound shot.
Zemgus Girgensons scored the breakaway winner 33 seconds later.
“That’s pretty impressive,” Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said about Johnson’s save. “That had a little bit of Dominik Hasek flair to it. That save gets us an extra point, plain and simple. If he doesn’t make that save, we don’t get the overtime goal. He played well all night last night. He made a lot of big saves at key times.”
Johnson, a fifth-round pick by Pittsburgh in 2006, will likely make his eighth start tonight against the Penguins.
Sabres center Jack Eichel has never faced or even met Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby.
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” said Eichel, who turned 19 on Wednesday. “I think it’d be exciting to be matched up against him, playing against him.”
Eichel gets his chance tonight. The second overall pick has often performed like a veteran in his first nine NHL appearances, scoring three goals and, at times, controlling the game with his superior skills and hockey sense.
But Eichel, like any rookie, struggles occasionally. Following some tough stretches Tuesday, he finished the contest strongly, skating 18 minutes, 40 seconds.
“I just tried to keep it simple,” he said. “Sometimes people overlook that.”
Eichel didn’t have any firm birthday plans early Wednesday afternoon. Even on his special day, Eichel might’ve paid for some food.
Since he forgot his credit card in his hotel room Tuesday, Eichel said Sabres general manager Tim Murray, someone he calls “Mr. Murray,” told him he owes the team a dinner.
Sabres winger Tyler Ennis and Sam Reinhart both had maintenance days Wednesday. Coach Dan Bylsma expects both to play tonight.