BOSTON – Before Ryan O'Reilly celebrated his game-winning goal – a victory the Sabres needed so badly that they actually celebrated twice – he was angry. He was peeved at himself. He was upset at Boston's Zdeno Chara.
O'Reilly showed it. After failing to score on a point-blank chance, he got into a wrestling match with Chara, the Bruins' 6-foot-9, 250-pound captain. After losing a faceoff and failing to get the puck back, O'Reilly went to the bench and violently slammed his stick on the boards.
Those displays of passion have been lacking for Buffalo this season. O'Reilly realizes it.
"I feel I've got to show more emotion," he said after a 5-4 overtime victory Saturday night. "Not slamming my stick, but that kind of getting upset, getting mad and playing the game a little more mad.
"I've got to be a little more physical and I've got to show other guys that that's the attitude you've got to play with a bit more. When things aren't going well, let's get angry and let's do something about it.
"I think that helped me at that point."
The reappearance of O'Reilly helped the Sabres overcome a 4-1 deficit and stun the Bruins in TD Garden. He wasn't alone. Jason Pominville, Jack Eichel, Benoit Pouliot and Evander Kane also scored, including the tying goal by Kane with 2:08 left.
"It was a good effort by everyone, which was nice to see," O'Reilly said. "We haven't had enough of that. It's got to start with the leadership group. We've got to be the engine there."
One night after an absolute clunker, the engine revved a bit. Buffalo outshot Boston, 15-6, during a two-goal third period that helped the players get past Friday's 4-2 no-show against Vancouver.
"That's what the coaches have been harping on us about," Eichel said. "It's tough to win games in this league. If you want to win, you've really got to work hard. We need to use this game as an example of what it takes to win a hockey game."
It also helps to have luck once in a while. O'Reilly's winning goal with 2:01 left in OT started with hard work but finished easily.
After he came out front with the puck, he merely had to lift it into the open net. The Bruins' Torey Krug pushed Buffalo's Rasmus Ristolainen on top of Anton Khudobin, wiping out the Bruins' goaltender.
As the Sabres celebrated, they had to survive an NHL-initiated review for goalie interference. Buffalo waited at its bench for the officials to rule it a good goal, then celebrated again.
"On the ice it was a relief, then we get there and I see them going over to the box to challenge it," O'Reilly said. "I'm like, 'Uh-oh,' but then it was just that same excitement again. We won the game and could take the win. It was exciting both times."
Despite falling in the 4-1 hole, it was a game Buffalo deserved to win. The Sabres improved to 2-5-2 by outshooting the Bruins, 42-31. They survived two goals that bounced off their own players.
"We did a great job of being more positive with each other," O'Reilly said. "A bad mistake happens a couple times for guys, you're saying, 'It's all right. I'll be better. I'll be in a better spot for you.' When a guy makes a good play, guys were backing each other up saying, 'Good job.'
"Even though we were down a couple goals, we still had that. It was nice and kind of kept guys confident."
This group has proved that confidence can be fleeting. The chore is keeping the positive attitude Tuesday when Detroit comes to Buffalo.
" 'Factor' said it after the game: It doesn't mean much if we don't come back Tuesday and have a good performance," Eichel said, using one of O'Reilly's nicknames. "We need to start putting something together now that we know we can play and we can play with these teams and win games. We've just got to believe in ourselves more than anything. We've got to believe in ourselves and come to the rink and compete every day.
"I thought we were really hungry for this one. We deserved it."
Story topics: Ryan O'Reilly