Two struggling teams that will meet three times in the next 2 and a half weeks met in Buffalo on Tuesday, with the Sabres (who are having trouble with consistency) hosting the Senators (who are consistently good and consistently bad in stretches). The Senators come in with only one lineup change from Saturday’s game being the swap of Bobby Butler for Zenon Konopka, as Butler’s ineffectiveness earned him a seat in the press box.
THE FIRST PERIOD
Milan Michalek got the Senators on the board before the first whistle, 1:09 into the game. Ryan Miller waved at a rebound, that went to Jason Spezza whose no-look behind the back pass found Michalek whose one-timer beat a still flailing Miller. Shortly after the goal, Konopka squared off with Cody McCormick. McCormick looked like he had the advantage early on, but Konopka evened the bout with a late flurry and ended up on top. Craig Anderson bailed out his defensemen (the duo of Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen), who left sniper Thomas Vanek all alone on the doorstep, but Anderson knocked the Austrian’s feet out from underneath him, taking away the scoring chance, taking what would be considered a “good” penalty to take. Ottawa held the lead until Karlsson and Nick Foligno got their signals crossed and basically cancelled each other out with neither taking the puck, leaving Paul Szczechura alone with the puck on the doorstep. Less than two minutes later, Rundblad’s soft cross-ice pass was picked off by Derek Roy and in a flash Tyler Ennis had the Sabres up by one. That was it for the first period, as the Senators went to the locker room looking for answers to their defensive woes
THE SECOND PERIOD
Over and over the Senators continued to leave Anderson to fend for himself, and then the unthinkable happened for Sens fans as Karlsson and Michalek collided just inside the Buffalo blue line. Both were slow to get up after their legs locked together and the pair both went down. After an unsuccessful power play opportunity, Ottawa had a great chance to even the score, as Spezza sent Greening in all alone from the blue line, but the rookie rang the backhander off the crossbar. Cowen and Phillips saw power play time on the first and second unit respectively as Michalek saw very limited duty after the collision with Karlsson, and Alfredsson took his spot up front. The second ended the same as the first, with the Sabres up 2-1.
THE THIRD PERIOD
Early in the third the Michalek watch was on, but it was noted that he would not be returning in this game due to an upper body injury, which allieves fears of another knee injury for the speedster who is just getting back into form from the last boo-boo on his knee. As the clock was ticking down to the midway point, Peter Regin blasted one from just inside the blue line that went through about 12 legs and somehow found its way to the net. As time ran out, Greening brushed Miller behind the Buffalo goal, and Christian Ehrhoff came to his goalie’s rescue and might regret it, as a Greening punch split the defender wide open and he had to leave for repairs. Regin’s goal held as the tying marker, and fans were in store for some bonus hockey.
It didn’t take long, 45 seconds to be exact, for Cowen to be the hero in this one as Spezza carried it into the Buffalo end, and curled inside the line, found Karlsson across the ice who fed Cowen in front for the winner.
* * *
SENSHOT’S THREE STARS
3. Jason Spezza (OTT) – His two assists were highlight of the night material, 6 SOG and 20+ minutes of ice time.
2. Ryan Miller (BUF) – Made 41 saves to earn his club a point.
1. Craig Anderson (OTT) – The only reason the Senators had a chance in this one. A stolen game for #41.
Here are the game highlights from NHL.com
WHAT I SAW
The Senators might as well have played with 4 forwards out there in the first half of the game. Continuous turnovers and soft plays kept the Senators on their heels. Anderson bailed them out time and again. Erik Karlsson seems to have developed a case of “Spezz-itis” thinking he can do it all himself and thus creates turnovers going the other way. However, as much as Spezza is prone to turn the puck over on occasion, it is generally 100 to 150 feet away from his net. Karlsson’s are happening 10-15 feet in front of Anderson and he seems to be regressing to the “equal opportunity” defenseman that he was last season. Entertaining, yes, but not good for the job security of Coach MacLean if that trend continues. Karlsson’s shift length has to be of concern as well, whether by design or otherwise, he had 11 shifts of at least a minute, with one over 2 minutes and one just under 2. However, just when you think he has had a bad game, he goes in and sets up his partner for the overtime winner. Go figure!
Ryan Miller looks very uncomfortable in the Buffalo net since his run-in with Milan Lucic and Jhonas Enroth’s strong play while he was out. Michalek’s goal saw him waving at pucks and flailing around in a manner you don’t usually see from the veteran netminder. He seemed to settle in as the game wore on, and it was a shame the Sens didn’t jump on him even more at the start.
The Senators were their own worst enemy on this night as they trailed for much of the game due to their own mistakes and gifting goals to the Sabres in short order. However, they still managed to come back and tie it up in the third and Anderson was the difference and the reason there was still a comeback to be had.
The Senators were 0-3 in games requiring extra time in the last 10 games. Giving away those points has hurt them in the standings, and although a regulation win would have been better, the two points will go a long way.
It is a quick turnaround as the Senators return home to face the Boston Bruins. At least the Bruins will not be rested as they also played Tuesday, shutting out LA 3-0.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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