Eichel leads Sabres past Hurricanes in overtime

Jack Eichel scored in the final seconds of overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres the 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jack Eichel found himself alone in front of the net, and he wanted to make the most of the prime opportunity.

“If you don’t score,” Eichel said, “you look like an idiot.”

Instead, the 19-year-old rookie looked like a seasoned scorer.

Eichel’s breakaway goal at 4:59 of overtime lifted the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

It was Eichel’s second goal of the game and the first career overtime goal for the No. 2 pick in last year’s NHL Draft.

Evander Kane had two assists and Chad Johnson made 28 saves for the Sabres (28-33-9), who snapped a two-game losing streak. Marcus Foligno also scored.

Victor Rask and Phil Di Giuseppe scored for Carolina, which had won two in a row. Cam Ward made 21 saves.

The Hurricanes (31-26-12) are 10th in the Eastern Conference with 74 points.

The winning goal, Eichel’s 22nd of the season, occurred when he chased down Kane’s long, high-arching pass out of the defensive zone and slipped a short backhand between Ward’s pads.

Kane, who recorded multiple points for the third time in six games, collected the puck along the right boards after defenceman Zach Bogosian blocked a shot from Jeff Skinner and flung a backhand across both blue lines.

“He put the puck out in space where I can skate into it,” Eichel said. “A lot of people try to make a direct pass. You don’t know what could happen to it.”

Kane said he works on such passes regularly because they can be useful during line changes.

“It’s kind of like a punt, four seconds of hang time in the air and you can get off the ice,” Kane said. “In that situation, there’s eight seconds left, I heard a yell, I figured it was Eichs, and I thought I’d just lay it out there for him to try to catch it.”

Carolina coach Bill Peters was disappointed the Hurricanes were not able to hold the puck for the last shot.

“Good play by them to get the last shot,” he said. “We probably needed a better decision in the offensive zone with the clock winding down.”

Eichel’s first goal put Buffalo in front 2-1 five minutes into the third period. Fellow rookie Sam Reinhart assisted on the play, taking a pass from Kane along the left side, manoeuvring around Hurricanes defenceman Jaccob Slavin in the circle and feeding Eichel at the edge of the crease.

Rask’s power-play goal tied it at 2 with 10:59 remaining in the third. Less than a minute after Kane took a tripping penalty, Rask received a pass from Riley Nash in front of the net and flipped a backhand over a prone Johnson for his 16th goal of the season.

Di Giuseppe opened the scoring 6:42 into the second with his sixth goal. While tied up with Eichel, Skinner moved toward the net and rolled the puck past Johnson’s outstretched arm as he fell to the ice. Di Giuseppe chipped it in with a backhand from the right side of the net.

The Sabres tied it about a minute later when Brian Gionta‘s forechecking forced a turnover that led to Foligno’s turnaround wrist shot from the right circle. It was Foligno’s ninth of the season.

Carolina’s penalty-kill unit continued its strong play, holding the Sabres scoreless on four power plays. The Hurricanes have killed off 32 of their last 35 penalties over the past 13 games. The Sabres have gone 0 for 12 on the power play in their last four games.

“We didn’t play too bad,” Hurricanes defenceman Brett Pesce said. “I honestly felt we got better as the game went on. We got some momentum in the second and third. We just got an unfortunate bounce.”

NOTES: Kane addressed reporters before the game for the first time since acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty announced Friday that Kane will not face criminal charges following an investigation into an alleged sexual assault. “I’m definitely happy that process is behind me and I’m grateful for the support I got from the Buffalo Sabres and my teammates and family members, as well,” Kane said. … Foligno has eight points in Buffalo’s last eight home games. … The Hurricanes, who entered the game ranked second in the NHL in faceoff win percentage, won 42 of 66 faceoffs (64 per cent). … The Sabres have defeated the Hurricanes in three straight meetings dating to last season. The teams play again March 22 in Raleigh, North Carolina.