The Buffalo Sabres dropped their season opener to the Ottawa Senators in a stellar battle of the goaltenders that saw the two teams combine for 81 shots on goal. Ottawa defeated Buffalo by a score of 1-0 in a late heartbreaker.
After over 58 scoreless minutes, things finally came to a head. Erik Karlsson scored the lone goal of the game at the 18:25 mark of the third period, and the Senators held on to capture the 1-0 victory. Karlsson’s game-winning goal came from former Buffalo Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur, as well as Senators center Kyle Turris.
Despite the low scores, many fans on Twitter proclaimed that tonight’s Sabres vs. Sens game was one of the most fun low-scoring games they’d ever been to.
The game certainly had its share of energy, including 21 hits coming from the Buffalo Sabres. Captain Steve Ott led the team with six hits, while John Scott had four. Mark Pysyk, Mike Weber, Christian Ehrhoff, Kevin Porter, Zemgus Girgensons, Patrick Kaleta and even rookie Rasmus Ristolainen all put out hits during the game.
Other things tonight’s game had: plenty of Thomas Vanek shots. Vanek accounted for nine shots against the Ottawa Senators, amounting to nearly forty percent of the team’s shots during the game. Center Brian Flynn also had five shots in the loss.
Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff led the Sabres with over 27 minutes of ice time. Ehrhoff also had three shots and five blocks, in addition to one hit during the game. Steve Ott, Mike Weber, Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers each played over 20 minutes.
For the Senators, Jason Spezza put up seven shots, while both Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan had five shots each. Chris Neil and Jared Cowen had thee hits each for the Senators, who put up 14 hits during the duration of Friday’s game. The goal-scorer Karlsson led the team with 25:59 ice time; only one other player – Marc Methot – played over 20 minutes.
The real story of Friday’s home-opener, however, was the goaltenders. Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson was excellent and certainly deserves some credit for the win, as he stopped all 35 shots faced in 59:21 ice time. Ryan Miller was also stupendous, keeping the Sabres in the game and at times seemingly standing on his head. He faced 46 shots, allowing just one goal before he was pulled for the empty net towards the end of the game.
Tonight’s game was even a record-setter. The 39 shots put up between the two teams in the first period were the most in a scoreless NHL period during the expansion era (post-1967).
One interesting thing of note: after six penalties were called during the first period (three penalties per team!), just one was called in the second period, as Bobby Ryan took a hooking penalty at the 4:03 mark. That would end up being the final penalty of the game, with none the rest of the middle frame and none during the third period.
Defenseman Henrik Tallinder left the game during the second period with an upper body injury, but returned to play the third period. His status at this point is unknown, though it’s believed that Alexander Sulzer may be headed up to Buffalo from Rochester – so if that’s any indication, Tallinder may be questionable for the time being.
In his postgame comments, head coach Ron Rolston said the team needs to compete on a higher level. Rolston also said the Sabres’ third line, which consists of a trio of players who were under Rolston’s coaching tenure with the Rochester Americans last season – Zemgus Girgensons, Kevin Porter and Brian Flynn – was the best line during Friday’s game.
The Buffalo Sabres now face an 0-2-0 record… and there’s no rest for the weary, as the team travels to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in a 7 p.m. tilt. The team will then host the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets next week.