- Associated Press - Thursday, December 1, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - With Jack Eichel back on the ice, the Buffalo Sabres are no longer struggling to score.

Eichel had two goals in the third period, and the Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday night for their second straight victory.

Buffalo’s star center has three goals and an assist in two games since returning from a high-ankle sprain. In 21 games without Eichel, the Sabres scored an NHL-low 39 goals and had four or more goals in a game just twice. Buffalo has tallied nine goals in its last two wins.

Sabres coach Dan Bylsma was expecting his team to get a lift from Eichel’s return, but he did not anticipate the 20-year-old forward would produce this much in his first two games back.

“It just shows what kind of player he can be, what kind of player he is,” Bylsma said. “He’s a dynamic player and he brings so much to our team in speed and attack. Everyone feeds of it. It has carried over to other players.”

Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta also scored for Buffalo. Anders Nilsson made 22 saves while subbing for starting goaltender Robin Lehner, who is day to day with a hip injury.

Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash and Marc Staal scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves.

The Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers lost for the first time in 14 games this season when leading after two periods. After winning 13 of its first 17 games, New York is 3-4-1 over the past two weeks.

Eichel has a point in seven straight games dating to last season, and the Sabres are 10-3-1 when he has more than one point.

Playing in his first home game of the season, Eichel electrified the crowd at KeyBank Center with two goals in 103 seconds late in the third.

“It was great to be back here,” Eichel said. “I was definitely looking forward to it. To be able to win and get a little come-from-behind victory in the third period and be able to contribute makes it feel a whole lot sweeter.”

Eichel tied the game on a power play with 7:15 remaining. After drawing a holding penalty on Adam Clendening, Eichel received a pass from Kyle Okposo in the right circle and beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot to the short side of the net.

“He just froze me,” Lundqvist said. “I was expecting a pass. I was already thinking about what’s going to happen next and instead he goes for the shot. You know, that’s what good players do. They read from what I’m doing there and obviously I need to challenge him more.”

On his next shift, Eichel took a cross-crease pass from Sam Reinhart and tried to feed the puck to a streaking Evander Kane, but it bounced off the left skate of New York’s Mats Zuccarello and into the net.

“When you look at the goals there, some fluky ones,” Lundqvist said. “All of them, really, just some weird plays. But I guess that happens when they spend so much time in our own end.”

Buffalo took the lead 18 seconds into the game when Jake McCabe’s pass from center ice deflected off Larsson’s skate at the blue line and bounced over Lundqvist’s shoulder.

The Sabres controlled possession for much of the second period and tied it when Marcus Foligno’s backhand from behind the net set up Gionta for a tap-in at the edge of the crease at 9:48.

“I really thought our team played at another level in that second period,” Bylsma said.

The Rangers went up 3-2 midway through the second when Staal scored on a one-timer from the right circle off Jesper Fast’s backhand feed from the end boards.

New York converted on the power play for its first two goals.

McDonagh tied it at 1 with 3:45 left in the first. Utilizing a Chris Kreider screen, McDonagh fired a wrist shot from the point beneath Nilsson’s blocking pad for his first goal of the season.

Nash gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead 8:15 into the second. Steve Vesey deflected Clendening’s shot from the point and Nash tucked the rebound between Nilsson’s pads. Nash has six points in his last six games and is second on the Rangers with 11 goals, one behind Michael Grabner.

NOTES: Reinhart has six points in his last five games. … Vesey heard boos from the crowd in his first game in Buffalo. The Sabres acquired Vesey’s rights in a trade with Nashville in June but were unable to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner before he became eligible for free agency. He signed with New York two months later. … With Lehner out, Buffalo recalled G Linus Ullmark from the minors to back up Nilsson. … Clendening, a native of nearby Niagara Falls, replaced Kevin Klein on the Rangers’ third defensive pairing after being a healthy scratch in 18 of the last 19 games.


Rangers: Host Carolina on Saturday.

Sabres: Host Boston on Saturday.

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