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Sabres collect themselves after Antipin's injury, storm past Predators

NASHVILLE  -- There was anger and shock. Some disbelief too. Buffalo Sabres defenseman Victor Antipin was down in a heap behind the Sabres' net and nobody really saw what happened.

Drilled in the back by Nashville forward Scott Hartnell, Antipin was out on the ice late in the second period Saturday night in Bridgestone Arena.

"I didn't see it or hear it. I just looked back and saw one of our guys laying down there," Sabres goalie Chad Johnson said after Buffalo rallied for a 7-4 win over the Predators. "He was lifeless. Hands not up, face right on the ice. I knew it was bad and I just tried to wave guys over right away."

Antipin needed medical care and was stretchered off the ice to nearby Vanderbilt University Medical Center for observation on his head and neck. Early reports that were positive on the rookie's condition were confirmed by the Sabres around 1 a.m. Eastern time, when the team announced Antipin was released from the hospital. There may be a further update Sunday afternoon once the club arrives in Toronto.

"He's doing good," coach Phil Housley said after the game. "We haven't talked to our doctors so we'll know more tomorrow. As far as I know he's doing well right now."

Housley's team was too in the wake of the injury. The Sabres scored three times on Hartnell's ensuing major penalty and five times overall in the second period to post a stunning road win against the NHL's top team.

Jack Eichel led the way, tying a franchise record with five assists. Sam Reinhart collected his second career hat trick, with two of the goals coming on the Hartnell major. Kyle Okposo had two goals, with others notched by Jason Pominville and Ryan O'Reilly.

"When you see somebody get taken out on a stretcher, that's emotional," said Eichel, who tied the club mark last set in 1993 by Pat LaFontaine at Winnipeg. "That's a guy you're with every day and that's a teammate of yours. I thought we did a good job responding. We dug in and that's what we needed to do. I hope Victor is doing well. Nobody wants to see that. We were a little bit emotional at the time but we snapped out of it quickly to capitalize on the power play."

"That's scary. I didn't see it but there's a reason why you could hear a pin drop for about 10 minutes straight in there," Reinhart said. "So right now we're just hoping he's OK, hoping the best for him. We're trading all those goals back if he's all right."

The Wraparound: Sabres 7, Predators 4

The sense in the room was that the Sabres weren't surprised Hartnell was the perpetrator.

"No one wants to see that in the game and it's not the first time that guy has done that," Johnson said. "So you hope the NHL is really strict. Really, really, really strict when a guy does that. It's obviously in their hands but I'm glad we got the win for Victor. Victor is a great guy and we were taken back by what happened there. But we kept pushing forward."

Housley didn't want to go into detail on the hit.

"I'm not going to comment on that," he said. "I'm sure the NHL will look at it. I'm just worried about Victor."

The Sabres scored four power-play goals in a game for the first time since 2011 and got their first five-point game from a player since Thomas Vanek lit up Boston in 2013. Their five-goal second period erased a 3-1 deficit and was their first five-goal period since exploding in the third period against the Bruins in 2015.

It added up to an emotional victory for Housley, an assistant here the last four years. He was saluted by the crowd in the first period and by his players after the game, and he said he thanked them for the win.

"It was great. It's just weird being on this side of that door between the locker rooms," he said. "But I'm really proud of our guys and I said that to them. We stuck with it, got a huge win here. To win in this building is hard. I know the fan base provides energy for their team. Our guys stuck with it, stayed the course. When it was 3-1 for them, they really dug in. It was a great response from our team and to say the least I'm very, very happy right now."

Preds' Hartnell on Antipin hit: 'I wasn't head-hunting'

 

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