It was yet another case of good not quite being good enough as the Ottawa Senators missed a big chance to gain 2 points on many of their rivals, losing 2-1 in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres.
The Senators have to be thinking that the sooner the Sabres trade Ryan Miller, the better, and hopefully he goes to the Western Conference, because Miller seems to give the Senators fits no matter how well he or the Sabres are playing. Both goalies were solid in making 35 saves, while Robin Lehner would like to have the Buffalo regulation goal back.
Ottawa got on the board first, and it was a good sign that some offense came from a couple of slumping players. Cory Conacher fed a nice pass to Milan Michalek on a 2 on 1, and Michalek buried the puck past Miller to break the ice 6 and a half minutes in. Ottawa missed a chance to take a stranglehold with back to back power plays in the middle of the frame, but couldn’t capitalize and the period ended with Ottawa ahead by 1.
Buffalo came out in the 2nd and took the play to Ottawa, despite allowing yet another power play to the Senators but killing it off. Ottawa took 3 straight penalties, and although they were able to kill them all off, in between the first and second one, Zemgus Girgensons knocked in a puck from a bad angle that Lehner knocked into his own net. Ottawa dodged a bullet when on a delayed penalty, Lehner made 2 stops and with the puck lying in the crease a trio of Senators managed to knock it into their own net. The goal was disallowed as it was ruled that Ottawa had gained possession and therefore the play was dead at that point. Ottawa was definitely the benficiary of a loose definition of “possession” on that play and the Senators escaped the period tied at 1 despite being outshot 18-9 in the period.
Ottawa rebounded in the third, but it was Ryan Miller and Robin Lehner who stole the show, with both making game-saving stops , Miller making 13 and Lehner being less busy with just6, but a game saver off the breakaway of Christian Ehrhoff. Regulation ended still tied, so overtime was necessary.
Ottawa definitely had the better chances to end it in sudden death, but again Miller was up to the task and a shootout was required.
Ottawa changed it up finally for their shootout order after going 1 for 12 in their first 4 shootouts. It had mixed results as both Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza failed to register a shot attempt, losing the handle on the puck as they approached Miller. Mika Zibanejad cemented his spot in the next shootout with a nice 5 hole goal on Miller, that tied the shootout at 1 and required extra shooters. Bobby Ryan also didn’t get a shot off on his opportunity, and after Bryan Flynn gave the Sabres the lead in sudden death shootouts, of course Rogers Sportsnet flipped the switch (at least on the Rogers provider) and sent all of Ontario to Sportsnet Connected and failed to return for the remaining 4 and a half rounds of the shootout, which was frustrating and disappointing for Rogers customers.
Anyway, Kyle Turris, Steve Ott and Michalek all scored in succession to keep the shootout going, and in the 10th round Girgensons beat Lehner while Erik Condra missed to give the Sabres just their 7th win of the season.
SENSHOT’S PLAYER OF THE GAME
Aside from the 1 goal that wasn’t exactly a bullet to the top corner, Lehner provided good enough goaltending to win most games, which is what the Senators need from him. Thirty-five saves through 65 minutes and looked confident. However, in the shootout he looked shaky and out of position many times getting beat but not allowing the goal. He seemed to bite on a lot of first moves, and was fortunate to make as many saves as he did in the skills competition part of the game.
These same clubs will meet again on Thursday night on Canadian Tire Centre ice in the second have of their home and home.