There's no use asking Jason Pominville if this is how he imagined it. This was so far out of the realm of possibility that he couldn't picture it in even his wildest dreams.
Yet there he was Thursday night, skating to center ice in the Sabres' arena with the fans gleefully welcoming him back. The roars reverberated in his helmet not once but twice more as he scored Buffalo's first two goals of the season.
The one thing missing was a perfect ending, but overall it was a memorable homecoming.
"I never really imagined having the chance to play here again," Pominville said after a 3-2 shootout loss to Montreal. "It was a special night."
The smile spread across the right winger's face as he listed the people in attendance. His wife. His kids. His parents. His wife's parents.
They were in the sellout crowd applauding his goals during the first and second periods, tallies that gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation. It sounded like everyone in KeyBank Center was part of Pominville's family during the pregame introductions. The noise rose to a level that eclipsed all the Sabres but Jack Eichel.
"I definitely heard it being pretty loud when I went out," Pominville said. "That was a pretty cool moment, for sure. I didn't really know what to expect from me getting booed when we had shootouts here when I was with Minnesota.
"Great reception. The fans were awesome."
Pominville had the chance to make it even louder. He was Buffalo's second shooter in the breakaway challenge, but he fired just outside the net after believing he had goaltender Carey Price beat.
"We did a lot of good things," Pominville said. "If we play this way on a consistent basis, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win a lot of games."
The Sabres were upbeat despite getting just one of two points. They outshot the Canadiens, 45-40. Their speed and offensive potential were evident.
A short-handed goal allowed with 11:59 left and a dynamic shootout goal by Jonathan Drouin cut their point total in half.
"We deserved a better result," Sabres right wing Seth Griffith said.
Griffith was among those who jumped into Pominville's arms to celebrate the first goal. Griffith found the winger in front and watch Pominville score on the backhand, his 186th goal for the Sabres but first since March 21, 2013.
"I remember him being a really good player here, so it's nice that he picked up where he left off," Griffith said.
Pominville's second goal came in his patented spot. He found space at the side of the net and buried a pass that Eichel skillfully slipped across the ice and past defenders.
"He's pretty crafty around the net," Eichel said. "He finds ways to get open. At that specific moment, I saw him sneaking behind the net and tried to put it in an area. He works on his one-timer from that spot, and he buries it.
"It's nice to see him score two goals. Obviously, the fans are really happy to have him back, and I know that we're happy to have him."
Eichel's assist was so nice that even the clean-cut Pominville swore in amazement. If they keep connecting, the close losses should turn to wins.
Now that he's officially back, Pominville can start dreaming about that.
"Pretty special day," he said, "but it would have been nice to get the win and maybe find a way to score one there in the shootout."
Story topics: Jason Pominville