OVERTURNED AT HOME
Normally a 41-save performance from your star goaltender would be good enough to guarantee victory at home. But another blown lead by the Buffalo Sabres turned into a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators tonight in front of 18,690 at First Niagara Center. The third goal of the season by Ottawa’s Jared Cowen just 45 seconds into the extra period was the game winner.
Milan Michalek got Ottawa on the board 69 seconds into the game with his league-leading 19th goal of the season. Buffalo countered late in the period with goals by Paul Szczechura and Tyler Ennis that came just 1:28 apart.
But it was one step forward and two steps back for Buffalo in the second period. Three straight penalties during a seven-minute stretch late in the period put the Sabres back on their heels and started turning the game in Ottawa’s favor.
“It’s a product of handling the puck, said head coach Lindy Ruff. “We started at the start of the second period with some careless plays. Those careless plays led to penalties, and that hurt us.”
Ottawa evened the score at the 7:27 mark of the third when Peter Regin fired a shot through a crowd from the top of the right faceoff circle that Miller is still looking for. They closed it out in overtime on a goal by Cowen when he snuck in from the point behind some missed coverage to convert Erik Karlsson's pass from behind the net.
“For me, it's how poorly we defended the first goal against and then how we defended that overtime goal, which hurts you as a team,” said Ruff. “Stafford was supposed to stay with his guy. He was with him at the top of the circle and just let him go. There's nothing else to that play.”
A despondent Stafford agreed with Ruff’s assessment of the play.
“We need to make sure we collapse if a d-man's coming in. That all happened kind of fast; still a little frustrated about the outcome here. I'm not really thinking too much about that play right now. It's pretty much the whole game. We're trying to evaluate, take what we can from it and we have to bury it.”
The loss dropped the Sabres to 2-5-3 in their last 10 at home, and resulted in a closed-door locker room meeting immediately following the game. To a man they know their performance at First Niagara Center needs to improve.
“We've been nowhere near good enough at home all year. We've been trying to find ways to get better,” said Ryan Miller, who stood tall in the Sabres net with 41 saves. “I thought our response was good to getting scored on early in the game but after that, we made it tough with some penalties. It's hard to get the momentum going. Once we got our feet going we were good, but penalties came and they started putting the puck in our zone. We had to play some defense and we were going a long ways to get the puck back up ice.”
"We’re not playing a full 60 (minutes) right now,” said Derek Roy. “We’re not even playing a full 40 minutes.”
Miller is confident his teammates can rebound from this. They now have two days of practice to right the ship before the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town on Friday.
“We’ve gotta be in the flow and be right in the mix in the game there. We had some great moments tonight. I thought we played really well at some moments and I thought we played hard in a lot of moments. So, it's just unfortunate we couldn't seal up a victory here. Again, we'll have to work.”