OTTAWA – So that's why Dan Bylsma was so excited.
The Sabres' coach had been waiting since summer to see Jack Eichel join Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen on the top power-play unit. On their first two chances Tuesday, they scored. They added another with 3:17 left to lead Buffalo to an event-filled 5-4 win over Ottawa.
The Eichel effect was immediate as the center recorded a goal and assist in the opening 10 minutes of his season debut. He needed just four shifts for the two points.
The return of Eichel was tempered by a hip injury to No. 1 goaltender Robin Lehner.
Out of the crease: Lehner headed to the dressing room with 2:12 left in the first, shortly after leaving the crease to play a puck. He attempted to shoot the puck up the boards, but the Sens’ Jean-Gabriel Pageau blocked it. Lehner quickly turned back toward the net, and he grabbed his left leg in the process. At the next whistle, Lehner left and Anders Nilsson entered.
"I don’t want to overreact," Bylsma said of Lehner's hip injury. "He had it for about five minutes in the game. When he came out to play the puck, he just had a cramp and it kind of tightened up on him.
"I don’t want to say it’s too long of a deal. It’s probably more like day-to-day than anything else."
Lehner came to sit at the Sabres’ bench with 6:29 gone in the second, but he headed back to the dressing room five minutes later and never reappeared.
Out front: Though challenged often, the Sabres never lost the lead. They built advantages of 2-0, 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3. They improved to 3-1-1 in the past five games while ending the Senators' four-game winning streak.
Power of one: The Sabres’ top power-play unit needed just seven seconds to score on its first opportunity. Buffalo won the draw, and Ristolainen gave the puck to Eichel. He sent a cross-ice pass to Okposo, who try to feed Reinhart in front of the net. The puck instead hit an Ottawa defender and caromed in with 6:16 off the clock.
Dual power: It took just more than a minute for the power play to strike during its second chance. O’Reilly found Eichel near the left faceoff dot, and the center showed off his shot. He rifled a blast just inside the near post before goaltender Craig Anderson could slide over. Buffalo took the 2-0 lead with 9:31 gone.
Brief rebound: The Senators cut their lead to 2-1 with 6:13 left in the first. Lehner kicked a rebound to the slot, where Mike Hoffman had no trouble burying it.
Hair-raising moment: The Sabres answered just 31 seconds after Ottawa scored. Josh Gorges’ point shot hit Ottawa defenseman Cody Ceci in front. The puck bounced to O’Reilly, who had lost his helmet earlier in the shift. Looking like a player from the 1970s, O’Reilly put home a backhand off the post to give the Sabres a 3-1 lead.
In just 14:18, the Sabres scored more than they had in 12 of their previous 13 games.
Domination: With help from two early power plays, the Senators dominated the second period. They had a 17-4 shot advantage and scored two of the period’s three goals. Buffalo escaped with a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.
Exit blocked: Nilsson thought he safely deflected a shot to his right, but it hit an Ottawa player and bounced left. Mark Stone deposited it while the goalie was distracted, cutting Buffalo’s lead to 3-2 with 8:20 gone in the second.
Upon further review: Sens defenseman Dion Phaneuf celebrated an apparent tying goal when he banked home a point shot off Ristolainen. Dan Bylsma issued a coach’s challenge, and the goal was overturned because Chris Neil interfered with Nilsson.
Bang-bang: One minute after the goal was wiped out, Reinhart made it 4-2 by merely standing in front. Evander Kane’s pass from the boards hit Reinhart’s skate and slipped past Anderson.
However, Ottawa answered 43 seconds later. Hoffman crossed in front to tip home his second goal of the night with 2:09 remaining in the second.
Insurance: O'Reilly scored his second of the night with 3:17 remaining. After Reinhart took a whack at the rebound of an Okposo shot, O'Reilly connected to send home many of the 14,259 fans.
Last gasp: Hoffman brought hats to the ice with his third of the night, scoring on the power play with 1:31 to go to make it 5-4. Ottawa pulled Anderson but couldn't get the equalizer.
Next: The Sabres will play six of their next seven games at home. The run starts Thursday when Jimmy Vesey and the New York Rangers visit KeyBank Center. Vesey, who opted not to sign with the Sabres this summer, has eight goals and 14 points in 24 games.