CALGARY – Chad Johnson gave the Sabres a chance to win. Jack Eichel made sure they did.
Eichel ripped home a one-timer with 1:30 gone in overtime Monday, delivering a much-needed pick-me-up to Buffalo in the form of a 2-1 victory.
Johnson, a Calgary resident who had a solid season for Calgary last year, stopped 32 of 33 shots in his homecoming. The Sabres celebrated heartily with their goaltender in Scotiabank Saddledome.
To say the Sabres improved from their previous game would be a huge understatement. They had a lot to prove after Saturday's 7-1 shellacking by Dallas, and they followed up with an impressive road game.
Buffalo improved to 3-9 in overtime and ended a two-game losing skid.
Warm-up: The Sabres' power play, which went 3 for 8 in the previous two games, had two chances to win this one. Buffalo failed to get a shot when Michael Stone went for interference with 4:14 remaining.
Calgary's Mikael Backlund departed for holding the stick with 32.5 seconds left, and the overtime carryover paid off, though the goal was even strength as it came just as Backlund exited the box.
Short return: Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu returned to the Sabres' lineup after missing two games will an illness, but he lasted just 3:11 before being escorted to the dressing room for a concussion check.
Curtis Lazar reached out for a knee-on-knee hit on Beaulieu, and the defenseman challenged the Calgary forward. Lazar was a willing participant, landing a couple of quick punches and driving Beaulieu's chin into the ice during the takedown.
Beaulieu looked dazed as he rose to his skates and headed toward the penalty box. Officials quickly sent him to the trainers' room instead.
Beaulieu did not return.
Quick shot of power: The Sabres took the first penalty, a tripping call on Jake McCabe with 6:51 gone, and the Flames capitalized. Johnny Gaudreau fired from the left circle, and Matthew Tkachuk tipped it home from his usual spot in front of the net.
The assist was the 40th of the season for Gaudreau.
Quick tie: The Flames had trouble with the puck in their own zone, and it took only 24 seconds for the Sabres to make it 1-1. Scott Wilson picked up a turnover in the slot, and he fooled goaltender Mike Smith with a low shot that went five-hole with 8:24 gone.
Wilson's goal was his second in 15 games with Buffalo.
Leg up: The Sabres' top line of center Jack Eichel, left wing Zemgus Girgensons and right wing Kyle Okposo had an impressive second period. Smith was even more impressive in keeping them off the scoreboard.
Eichel buzzed around the zone to get free for a shot from the slot, and the rebound went directly to Girgensons. Smith quickly thrust out his right pad, stoning the winger to keep it 1-1 with seven minutes gone in the second.
Eichel, Girgensons and Okposo combined for nine shot attempts during the middle period.
No goals: Johnson made 12 saves and Smith stopped seven shots during the second, sending the teams into the third period tied at 1-all. Calgary had a 25-19 shot advantage after two periods and a 33-31 edge after regulation.
Buffalo entered the night 2-4-2 when tied after 40 minutes. The Flames were 5-5-4.
Lineup swap: Nick Baptiste, recalled from Rochester on Friday, played his first game for the Sabres since November. Benoit Pouliot was scratched for the third time in seven games.
In addition to the Eichel unit, the Sabres' lines featured Wilson-Ryan O'Reilly-Sam Reinhart, Evander Kane-Johan Larsson-Jason Pominville and Jordan Nolan-Evan Rodrigues-Baptiste.
Defenseman Victor Antipin was a healthy scratch while Josh Gorges was sick.
Counting the house: The Flames announced 18,349 tickets sold as fans in red jerseys filled the old building.
The City of Calgary and Flames ownership are in a bitter dispute over a new arena, with each side demanding the other kick in cash. The Saddledome, which opened in 1983, still has at least one fan.
"You come into this building, and it's just one of the great old barns that are still here," said Sabres coach Phil Housley, who played five seasons for the Flames. "I had a lot of really good times here with the Calgary Flames and the relationships that you make. This building is a landmark going back into the '80s.
"I'm just glad that we're able to play in this building."
Next: The Sabres will finish their 11th of 16 back-to-backs Tuesday when they visit Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. The Sabres are 2-6-2 so far during the second night.
Story topics: Nathan Beaulieu