Every game is a must-win for the Buffalo Sabres. They lost each of their first two home games out of the All-Star break, dropping them to sixth in the Atlantic Division and 25th in the National Hockey League.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, meanwhile, had not played a game since Jan. 22.
While neither team was crisp Saturday afternoon in KeyBank Center, the Sabres prevailed when Jack Eichel scored 36 seconds into overtime for a 2-1 win over Columbus.
The Sabres (23-22-7) had lost four of their previous seven games, while the Blue Jackets had won their six previous games.
Carter Hutton made 22 saves while making consecutive starts for the first time since Nov. 9-14, and he earned his first win since Oct. 22. Evan Rodrigues scored a first-period goal for Buffalo, and Columbus' Oliver Bjokrstrand tied the game in the period.
Opening salvo: Rodrigues gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead with his wrist shot under the left leg pad of Columbus goalie Matiss Kivlenieks at 16:08 into the first period. Rasmus Dahlin made the play possible by skating around Emil Bemstrom and making an impressive pass to Rodrigues, who was skating down the slot.
The goal was Rodrigues third of the season and his first since he scored two at Detroit on Jan. 12.
Close calls: The Sabres had to clear the puck from out of the crease on two occasions in the first period. Dahlin swept one away from Hutton four minutes into the game, and Buffalo's goalie dove to his left after a deflected shot went directly to Pierre-Luc Dubois below the right faceoff dot.
Dubois was unable to get a shot off and Hutton's teammates helped him keep the puck out of the net. Both teams had five shots on goal in the first period, but the Sabres took a 1-0 lead into the intermission. They entered Saturday 9-4-1 when leading after the first period.
Saved by the kick: Columbus appeared to tie the score, 1-1, with three minutes remaining in the second period on a goal by Alexander Wennberg. The play began with Jake McCabe falling down to give Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson room to fire a shot from the right-wing circle, and the rebound went toward Wennberg, who stopped while attempting to get a shot off.
However, the puck went off Wennberg's skate and into the net. Though the play was initially ruled a goal, video review overturned the call because Wennberg kicked the puck.
Man overboard: Zemgus Girgensons delivered a check that sent Columbus defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov over the boards and into the Sabres' bench in the final moments of the second period.
Uneventful: Though the two teams combined for 21 shots on goal in the second period, neither was able to generate scoring chances. Sam Reinhart was unable to retrieve a loose puck during a scramble in front of Columbus' net, Jimmy Vesey's centering pass to Jean-Sebastien Dea went directly toward Kivlenieks and Rodrigues' nifty backhander from the slot was stopped by the Blue Jackets' goalie.
Still, the Sabres carried a 1-0 lead into the third, and they entered Saturday 18-1 this season when leading after two periods.
Equalizer: A deflected pass ricocheted off Henri Jokiharju's stick and to Bjorkstrand, whose shot from the high slot went over Hutton's shoulder to tie the score, 1-1, with 14:15 remaining in the third period.
Lineup change: Defenseman Brandon Montour (lower body) was a late scratch after participating in warmups, and defenseman Zach Bogosian was scratched because of an illness. Andrew Peeke and Sonny Milano were the Blue Jackets' healthy scratches.
Tribute: In honor of Kobe Bryant, the Blue Jackets had only Zach Werenski (No. 8) and Nathan Gerbe (No. 24) on the ice for both anthems before the game.
Next: The Sabres are off Sunday and return to practice Monday in preparation for their game Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche in KeyBank Center.