CALGARY — It took extra time on Monday night, but Jack Eichel finally solved Mike Smith.
On his 13th shot attempt that included a game-high seven shots on goal, Eichel scored 90 seconds into overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. The goal, a wicked one-timer through Smith's pads, came shortly after Ryan O'Reilly beat Troy Brouwer on a face-off deep in the Flames end.
"I thought the faceoff at the end was a good opportunity for us to get a quick shot. I said to (Rasmus Ristolainen), try to get it in the middle and then I'll try to open up for a one-timer," said Eichel.
That's exactly how it played out.
Flames centre Mikael Backlund watched helplessly as he tried to get back into the play after exiting the penalty box. He had taken a holding the stick penalty with 33 seconds left in regulation and his penalty had just expired as Eichel scored.
"I was pretty nervous in the box, hoping they wouldn't score. When I saw the clock run down, I was pretty excited to get on the ice and then they score," said Backlund. "A tough way to end the game and a tough way to let the guys down."
The goal extends Eichel's point streak to six games (four goals, six assists).
"I'm shooting the puck a little bit more, trying not to fine-tune things. That and just trying to work, get in on the forecheck a little more and get to the net," said Eichel.
Chad Johnson made 32 saves to earn the victory, just his second of the season. He improves to 2-8-3. His first victory since Oct. 15 comes in his hometown and against the team he played for last season.
"Obviously there's more motivation there and a little more desire... not stick it to them, but when they play me I'm sure they want to compete a little bit harder knowing me and I want to compete a little bit harder knowing them," said Johnson.
Scott Wilson also scored as Buffalo (12-26-9), snapped a four-game road losing streak. The Sabres won in Calgary for the first time since Oct. 18, 2003.
Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames (25-16-6), who extended their point streak to nine games (7-0-2).
Calgary went into its bye week on a seven-game winning streak. Since they returned they've scored one goal in each game in a pair of overtime losses on home ice.
"We had some momentum going into it and then you come out of it, we're still getting some points, but I don't think we've played up to where we were before the bye," said Smith. "I think it's mental, more than anything, and just getting back going and getting back into the rhythm of things."
The Sabres' struggling penalty kill had given up 10 goals on its previous 24 chances and the trend continued eight minutes into the first period as Tkachuk scored on its first power play of the night.
That lead lasted just 24 seconds. Mark Jankowski's errant pass landed on the stick of Wilson in the slot, who fired a wrist shot past Smith for his second goal.
Gaudreau was the most dangerous Flames player but he couldn't solve his former teammate. Johnson stuck out the pad to stop him on a dangerous backhander on one rush. He had a couple of wraparounds that almost led to goals but Johnson shut the door both times.
"(Johnson) was the best player tonight for us. He made some huge stops at times," said O'Reilly. "He was making huge stops and gave us a chance. It was nice to see him get the victory for us."
Smith, who had 31 saves, falls to 20-13-5.
Notes: Calgary made one line-up change inserting Marek Hrivik on the fourth line in place of rookie Andrew Mangiapane... Buffalo RW Nicholas Baptiste made his first appearance since being recalled from Rochester on Friday.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press