BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Once Jack Eichel started shooting, the Buffalo Sabres’ fortunes began changing.
Hearing it from the fans after passing up several scoring opportunities in front during the opening period, the Sabres captain changed his approach. Eichel capped a two-goal, two-assist outing by scoring 3:13 into overtime of a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
“Obviously, the fans were letting me know that I had a few opportunities to shoot the puck,” Eichel said. “But you learn from it. I think after that, I got it into my head if I get a chance around the net, the puck was going there.”
Down 2-0 after the opening period, Eichel sparked Buffalo’s three-goal run by one-timing in Rasmus Dahlin’s pass into the left circle for a power-play goal 7:21 into the second period.
He then completed the seventh four-point game of his career by driving to the net and jamming in a loose puck behind goalie Martin Jones.
“He deserved this kind of a game after the way he’s been working and playing,” coach Ralph Krueger said of Eichel, who had been held without a point in Buffalo’s previous two games while facing opposing team’s top checking lines. “He likes to look those top players in the eyes and that line really stepped up today.”
The decisive goal didn’t sit well with Sharks captain Logan Couture as it came with San Jose caught making a line change. Without naming who, he appeared to be referring to Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc for being on the ice for nearly 90 seconds.
“Just an inexcusable change,” Couture said. “Two guys that stayed out too long looking for offense. It’s a selfish play that doesn’t need to be part of this team, so we’ll figure that out.”
Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart also scored for the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres, who improved to 8-1-1 and matched their second-best start to a season previously set twice. Carter Hutton stopped 25 shots and the Sabres completed a home-and-home sweep of the Sharks following a 4-3 win at San Jose on Saturday.
The Sharks squandered a two-goal lead but came away with a point after Erik Karlsson forced overtime by scoring with 8:33 remaining in regulation. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dylan Gambrell also scored for the Sharks who at 3-5-1 matched their worst start since 2005-06.
Jones stopped 25 shots, and had little chance on Eichel’s decisive goal.
Buffalo’s Casey Mittelstadt fed Rasmus Ristolainen up the left boards to set up a two-on-one break. Jones stopped Ristolainen’s initial shot, but was unable to control the rebound. Eichel crashed the net from the right and jammed in the loose puck.
The goal was allowed to stand after a video review showed there was no goaltender interference.
“We’re still not where we want to be, but at least we’re showing some signs of competing against really good teams here,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “When you go on the road you can’t beat yourself and beat yourself with penalties, turnovers, special teams. So yeah, we’ve got to be better in all those areas.”
The Sabres, who opened 8-1-1 in both 1975-76 and 2009-10, are also off to a 5-0 start at home, one short of the team record set in 1975-76.
The Sharks opened by scoring the first two goals, before the Sabres rallied back to take a 3-2 lead on Skinner’s goal 45 seconds into the third period. Eichel set up the goal by out-muscling Vlasic behind the net.
Hutton was coming off consecutive shutouts before giving up his first goal on San Jose’s third shot, 5:46 in when Gambrell deflected in Karlsson’s wrister from the right point.
NOTES: Vlasic’s goal was his 68th tying Dan Boyle for second on the franchise list among Sharks defensemen. … Hutton’s shutout streak finished at 134 minutes and 22 seconds, beating his previous career high by 3 1/2 minutes. … This marks just third time Sabres have played home-and-home series against Western Conference opponent, and first since 1996, when Toronto was in the West. … For Sharks, this is their fourth home-at-home against East opponent, including two-game series against Columbus in Sweden in 2010.
Sharks: Continue five-game road swing at Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
Sabres: At New York Rangers on Thursday.