Buffalo, NY - The Buffalo Sabres headed into Tuesday night’s 3-2 overtime loss with division rival Ottawa Senators just two points up on the 12th place Sens, and very little margin for error. The Sabres, now losers of 10 of their last 14, needed a victory to keep pace with the rest of the conference, and avoid slipping any further back. At the very least, a victory would keep the boo-birds, who were in full force to start the game, at bay.
Right off the bat, the Sabres didn’t do themselves any favors with the restless fan base. Just one minute into the game, some very sloppy defensive zone coverage led to the game’s first goal, as NHL leading goal scorer Milan Michalek notched his 19th of the season for the Senators. It was a dog’s breakfast in the Sabres zone, as a terrible giveaway (what else is new?) had the Sabres scrambling around seemingly without a clue as they watched the Senators shoot and pass the puck around with ease. The bouncing puck finally found it’s way to Michalek’s stick, who had Sabres goalie Ryan Miller down and out, and he snapped the puck home into a yawning net.
At this point, the crowd was giving it to the home team in spades, as it sensed an ugly night ahead.
However, just 30 seconds after the Senators goal, and sensing his team needed a “pick-me-up”, Sabres winger Cody McCormick challenged Senators tough guy Zenon Konopka to a good old fashioned throwdown. The much larger McCormick had the upper hand at the start, landing some solid rights to Konopka’s head, but that only seemed to awaken the Senators pugilist, who landed a few of his own. A fairly even fight ended with much of the appreciative crowd on their feet, and McCormick doing his job.
The Sabres couldn’t muster much of attack for the next twelve minutes, despite McCormick’s best efforts to awaken his team. Then at 14:16 of the period, a nice passing play knotted the score at 1-1. Jason Pominville had the puck to the right of Senators goalie Craig Anderson, and fed it in front to first year Sabre Paul Sczcechura, who made a nice backhand-forehand-backhand move, of which Anderson had no chance on. The goal was Szczechura’s first in a Sabres sweater, and his fourth point in five games this season.
Just 1:28 later, on a very similar play to the first Buffalo goal and riding the emotion of the now amped up crowd, Drew Stafford found Tyler Ennis alone in front of Anderson, and the Sabres winger buried his 2nd of the season for a 2-1 Sabres lead. Derek Roy had the other assist on the play, and Buffalo was seemingly off to the races.
The teams skated to their respective dressing rooms with the Sabres holding a one goal lead, despite being outshot 13-12.
The Sabres came out flying in the second, as they had countless quality scoring chances within the first five minutes of play. The line of Roy, Stafford and Ennis were especially potent, continuously buzzing around the Senators zone, giving their defensemen fits.
With 5:16 left in the period, the Senators Colin Greening picked up a loose puck just outside his blueline, and skated in alone on Miller. Miller made a sprawling save on the skilled Greening, who may have been Ottawa’s best forward Tuesday night. The Sabres took a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 16:06, which almost led to Ottawa’s second goal. With The Senators pressing for the equalizer, the puck ended up in front of the Sabres net on a goalmouth scramble. The Senators thought they had scored the tying goal, and despite many attempts at pushing the puck past Miller, the puck came to rest under the goaltender’s pads. Referees Dan O’Halloran and Dean Morton went to video review on the play, at the Senators’ urging, but there was no goal, and the Sabres killed off the remainder of the bench minor.
With the period winding down, Stafford took a high-sticking penalty with just six seconds left. The period ended with the Sabres still holding onto their one-goal lead. Ottawa held a 29-23 advantage in shots after two periods.
That’s when the tide turned for good.
The Senators skated into the 3rd period with almost a full power play, and took over momentum from there. With a ferocious, hard-working effort, Ottawa pinned Buffalo in their own end for much of the beginning of the period, and were rewarded for their efforts. At 7:27, Peter Regin‘s long slap shot from the Sabres right point found it’s way behind a screened Miller, to tie the score at two. The second Ottawa goal seemed to light a fire under the Sabres, however, as they controlled the play for a short while in the second half of the period. On one occasion, Sabres rookie winger Zack Kassian had a give and go with center Luke Adam and, while driving to the net, Kassian had the puck glance off his body just wide of the goal. A few minutes later, with Stafford driving to the net, Sabres winger Thomas Vanek let loose with a laser, only to have the rebound deflect off Stafford’s skate wide of the goal.
The Sabres had a chance later to take the lead, when Vanek stole the puck inside Ottawa’s zone, and fed a pass to Pominville, who was standing alone in front of Anderson. Pominville was hooked to the ice by Senators defenseman Jared Cowan (remember that name), putting the Sabres on the power play. The Sabres couldn’t sustain any sort of pressure on Ottawa though, despite being up a man, and it remained 2-2.
With the period winding down, the Senators had the puck in the Buffalo end when Greening bumped into Miller behind the Sabres net. Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff took exception to Greening getting physical with his goaltender, and the two engaged in a spirited bout, despite not landing many punches.
The teams skated into overtime knotted at 2-2, with Ottawa holding a commanding 42-29 edge in shots.
Overtime didn’t last long.
During the first minute of the extra period, off a Sabres giveaway, Ottawa’s Jason Spezza carried the puck into the Buffalo zone. Spezza circled at the blueline, fed a streaking Erik Karlsson a cross ice pass, who then found Cowan alone in front for the tap in. Cowan, initially covered by Drew Stafford, was allowed to sneak in from his point position and snap the puck past a clearly overworked Miller to give the Senators a 3-2 victory.
“Stafford was supposed to stay with his guy and he just let him go”, a clearly frustrated Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said after the game. “He was with him at the top of the circle, and just let him go. There was nothing else to that play”.
When asked about the Roy, Stafford and Ennis line’s numerous chances to score on the night, Ruff said the trio “coulda had (five goals), but I’m sick of coulda”.
The countless missed opportunities and carelessness with the puck, two things that have plagued this hockey team for most of this season, don’t seem to be getting any better. One has to wonder when the other shoe will fall, down at 1 Seymour Knox III Plaza.
Things don’t get any easier this week, as the Sabres play the Toronto Maple Leafs at the First Niagara Center Friday night.
- Szczechura scored his first goal in the NHL since March 25, 2010, when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
- Paul Gaustad, in his first game back from injury, went 10-for-15 on the draw. Gaustad is ranked second in the league with a 58.1% on faceoffs.
- Roy led all Sabres in icetime, finishing the night with 22:23, while also recording three takeaways.
- The only Sabres player not to record a shot on goal against the Senators was McCormick. Rookie Kassian paced the Sabres with four shots.
- Mike Weber, playing in his first game after missing eleven due to injury, shared the team lead (with McCormick) with three hits.
- The Sabres had twelve giveaways, while the Senators finished with seven.
- Sabres prospect Marcus Foligno, son of former Sabres great Mike Foligno, was in the press box watching his brother Nick, a forward with the Senators.
|01:09||Ottawa||Milan Michalek (19) (Jason Spezza, Colin Greening)||1-0 Ottawa|
|14:16||Buffalo||Paul Szczechura (1) (Jason Pominville)||1-1|
|15:44||Buffalo||Tyler Ennis (2) (Drew Stafford, Derek Roy)||2-1 Buffalo|
|01:41||Buffalo||Cody Mccormick: 5 minutes, fighting|
|01:41||Ottawa||Zenon Konopka: 5 minutes, fighting|
|04:50||Ottawa||Craig Anderson: 2 minutes, tripping|
|07:22||Ottawa||Colin Greening: 2 minutes, hi-sticking|
|12:14||Buffalo||Thomas Vanek: 2 minutes, hooking|
|16:06||Buffalo||Tyler Ennis: 2 minutes, too many men/ice – bench|
|19:54||Buffalo||Drew Stafford: 2 minutes, hi-sticking|
|07:27||Ottawa||Peter Regin (2) (Brian Lee)||2-2|
|13:11||Ottawa||Jared Cowen: 2 minutes, hooking|
|14:08||Buffalo||Derek Roy: 2 minutes, boarding|
|20:00||Buffalo||Christian Ehrhoff: 5 minutes, fighting|
|20:00||Ottawa||Colin Greening: 5 minutes, fighting|
|00:45||Ottawa||Jared Cowen (3) (Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza)||3-2 Ottawa|
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Topics: Buffalo Sabres, Cody Mccormick, Colin Greening, Craig Anderson, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowan, Jason Pominville, Jason Spezza, Lindy Ruff, Marcus Foligno, Milan Michalek, Nick Foligno, Ottawa Senators, Paul Gaustad, Paul Szczechura, Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Tyler Ennis, Zack Kassian, Zenon Konopka