Hudson Fasching and Casey Nelson arrived in the NHL with a splash. Fellow rookies Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel made sure the folks in Buffalo didn’t forget about them.
Like that's even possible.
Reinhart and Eichel scored in the opening 4:07 of the third period Saturday, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Eichel’s game-winning goal with 15:53 to go came after Reinhart forced a turnover at center ice and sent a no-look pass to his center. Eichel sent a shot past the glove of Andrew Hutchinson for this 23rd goal and team-high fifth game-winner.
The goal also gave Eichel 50 points, making him the ninth Sabres rookie to reach the milestone and youngest since Phil Housley in 1982-83.
Reinhart ties it: Zemgus Girgensons did most of the work early in the third as Reinhart tied the game at 2-2. Girgensons pushed the offensive-zone faceoff forward and took a shot that hit the post. It bounced to Reinhart in the slot, and he put home his 22nd goal of the season with 1:23 gone.
Welcome to the NHL: Fasching and Nelson combined to pull the Sabres within 2-1 with 8:37 off the clock. After Nelson’s work along the boards allowed the Sabres to clear their zone. Fasching did the rest. The 6-foot-2, 216-pounder went around Jacob Trouba on the left side and forced the defenseman to the ice. Fasching cut through the open lane to the net and tucked the puck between the pads of Hutchinson.
As David Legwand fished the milestone puck out of the net, the announced crowd of 19,070 roared for the historic moment.
Debut duo: Until Fasching and Nelson achieved the feat, the Sabres hadn’t had two players register their first points on the same goal in their debut since Oct. 5, 1989. Alexander Mogilny scored with an assist from Dave Snuggerud.
Cleared for takeoff: The right side of the Sabres’ zone resembled a runway in the opening minutes, and the Jets took off with two goals in 42 seconds.
Nikolaj Ehlers left Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe in his skate shavings while buzzing into the Buffalo zone on the opening goal. As the winger cut toward the crease with 4:27 gone, he lifted a short-side shot past the glove of goaltender Chad Johnson.
Andrew Copp made it 2-0 with 5:09 off the clock. He also found an open lane down the right side and got the puck to the crease, where it was inadvertently kicked into the net. The Jets had to wait for a double review – the officials ruled on the validity of the goal, then looked at the Sabres’ challenge of goaltender interference – before celebrating with certainty.
Power play blanked during second: A pair of Winnipeg penalties gave the Sabres two chances to tie the game during the second. They couldn’t connect. Hutchinson stopped Sam Reinhart from the door step during the opening power play then got in the way of Zemgus Girgensons’ tip during the second.
Where is he?: After scoring and attempting three shots during the first period, Fasching skated just 2:01 during the second. During one his rare times sent over the boards by coach Dan Bylsma, Fasching lined up in the offensive zone with center Ryan O’Reilly and left wing Evander Kane. The rookie played the third period with the veteran duo.
“Drewwwww”: During the first commercial break, the Sabres welcomed back Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers with a short video. Stafford waved from the bench as fans applauded and shouted, “Drewwwwwww.” Myers is injured but was in the arena. The duo hadn’t played in Buffalo since being traded to the Jets in February 2015.
T-Mac honored: During the second commercial break, Buffalo honored athletic trainer Tim Macre for working his 1,500th NHL game earlier in the week. The players rose from the bench and tapped their sticks in appreciation at the end of the video, which included comments from Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta, the equipment staff of Dave Williams, Rip Simonick and George Babcock, plus New York Rangers athletic trainer Jim Ramsay.
Winnipeg in the house: There were a surprising number of Jets fans in the crowd. They yelled out “True North” during the Canadian anthem (the team’s ownership group is True North Sports and Entertainment) and booed former Jets winger Kane when he was introduced in the starting lineup.
Next: The Sabres will hit the road for back-to-back games against two of their closest neighbors. The Sabres start Monday in Detroit against the Red Wings. They’ll play Tuesday in Pittsburgh against coach Dan Bylsma’s former club. After taking Wednesday off, the Sabres will host Toronto on Thursday in their penultimate home game.