Sam Reinhart to Jack Eichel to the back of the net.
A no-look pass from one of the Buffalo Sabres’ No. 2 overall draft picks to the other was the highlight of the day Saturday in a 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota.
The goal came at 6:38 of the second period and gave the Sabres two in 83 seconds as Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter sat out a four-minute penalty for high sticking Buffalo defenseman Jake McCabe.
Reinhart took a pass from Cal O’Reilly near the goal to the right of Wild goaltender Devin Dubnyk. He pivoted, shielded the puck to create space and whipped it across the ice to Eichel in the right circle as two Wild players and Dubnyk overcommitted to him.
The quick pass was right on Eichel’s stick and the rookie made no mistake with a snapshot for his team-high 19th goal of the season.
“He didn’t look at me,” Eichel said “And he was looking away from the net. It’s a great no-look pass by him.”
“When you know who is on the ice, you’ll know they’re going to put themselves in a position where the puck kind of has to go and where it should go,” Reinhart said. “You saw before the play developed he was already standing there waiting for it. To be able to finish it the way it did was great.”
Reinhart and Eichel together with Evander Kane has been the Sabres’ top line with the injury to Ryan O’Reilly.
“I don’t think we were very good with each other to be honest with you at the start of the year but we’ve been able to find chemistry as of late especially,” Reinhart said of Eichel. “We’re getting that much more comfortable with each other, both 5-on-5 and the power play. Obviously he’s an easy guy to play with. Hopefully we can keep that going.”
The Sabres had four shots on goal in the 3-on-3 overtime period and seemed noticeably more aggressive this time. Part of that, Bylsma admitted, was hoping to take advantage of Minnesota’s 1-8 record in the extra session. And part of that was simply a conscious decision at home to get matchups and better changes.
The Sabres remained 2-3 in overtime decisions and fell to 1-6 in shootouts.
“We’ve been trying to win every darn 3-on-3 we’ve gotten into,” Bylsma said. “We’re not playing for the shootout. I think with just the troops that we had, we wanted to go with the six guys that we did.”
Bylsma was referring to a six-pack of players who saw the ice more than a minute in overtime. Rasmus Ristolainen led the way at 2 minutes, 50 seconds. Eichel played 2:32, Brian Gionta was at 1:57, Reinhart 1:54, Evander Kane 1:49 and Zach Bogosian 1:35.
The Buffalo penalty kill entered the game 27 for its last 29 and up to eighth in the NHL but failed on its only opportunity Saturday and it was a key spot. The Sabres were nursing a 2-1 lead when Josh Gorges went off for tripping at 13:45 of the third period.
It took just 34 seconds for the Wild to tie it, as Mikko Koivu drilled a one-timer home off a neat cross-ice feed from defenseman Matt Dumba.
“We just got overly aggressive on a play to the back of the net,” Bylsma said. “They turned off it, made a quick play through the seam right in front. ... It’s disappointing at that point in the game. We’re 5½ to go and a big kill probably wins us the game. Our penalty kill has been so good for us for long periods of time. You’re disappointed we’re 0 for 1 tonight in that regard.”
Bylsma said O’Reilly will hit the three-week mark of his broken foot on Friday, and only then would the team consider seeing if he could start skating. Cody Franson and Tyler Ennis continue to work out on their won.
The Wild entered the game just 1-18-5 when trailing after two periods but finally bucked that trend to pull out a victory. The Sabres were 17-3-1 when leading after two.