BUFFALO - Another strong effort in goal by Ryan Miller couldn’t translate to points in the standings for the Buffalo Sabres.
Miller made 45 saves in the game -- the second-most saves he’s made in a game in his career -- but the Sabres still fell to the Ottawa Senators, losing 1-0 at First Niagara Center on Friday in Buffalo’s home opener.
Those 45 shots were the most Miller’s turned aside since he stopped 48 of 50 on Jan. 8, 2010 in a 3-2 win against Toronto. Through two games this season, Miller has made 77 saves on 79 shots. The Sabres, however, are 0-2-0 to start the 2013-14 campaign.
“He showed us why he’s the best goaltender in the world,” Sabres defensemen Mike Weber said. “It’s discouraging from our standpoint as a team in front of him that we gave up [a combined 52 shots and missed shots] against. But again, he stood on his head and it’s extremely discouraging that we let him down and gave them a goal there.”
Miller stopped all 23 shots he faced in the first period, all 10 in the second and 12 of 13 in the third.
“It was not a fun way to lose, especially in our opener. We wanted more energy. We tried to create some confidence here,” he said.
Erik Karlsson broke the scoreless tie with 1:35 remaining in regulation on the 45th shot Miller saw. From the right slot, Karlsson crept in to one-time a cross-ice pass from Clarke MacArthur through Miller’s five hole and into the net. Weber said that picking up Karlsson was his responsibility.
“It was in the corner. I saw my D partner [Tyler Myers] go to him. I looked at the corner guy [MacArthur] and then tried to find the high guy [Karlsson], which is my guy,” Weber said. “But again, I’ve got to recognize that my forward’s in trouble and as the weak side defenseman, I can’t allow anything through the back door.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 39 shots the Sabres and Senators combined for in the first period were the most in a scoreless period in the expansion era (1967-present). Senators goaltender Craig Anderson turned aside 16 shots that period. He finished the game with a 35-save shutout performance.
The Sabres and Kansas City Scouts combined for 41 shots on Feb. 2, 1975, the most in one period in Sabres franchise history.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston was displeased with what he saw on the ice.
“We didn’t take care of the puck at all. We turned the puck over a ton,” he said. “…We didn’t take care of the puck through the neutral zone at all and didn’t move it quick enough when we had it.”
One aspect that Rolston said he did like was the line combination of center Kevin Porter with wings Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn. Rolston put those three together after shuffling the lines in the second period. He said that line was the Sabres’ best.
“They just play with effort and they play the right way,” Rolston said. “It’s a simple game. We don’t have enough guys playing the right way right now early in the season so we’re back to square one.”
Yet again, the Sabres could not convert on their power play opportunities. They finished 0-for-7 on Friday and are 0-for-11 this season so far. On the flip side, Buffalo’s penalty kill has been perfect through two games. The Senators went 0-for-3 and the Detroit Red Wings didn’t convert on any of their three power play opportunities.
Sabres co-captain Vanek had nine shots in the game, tying a career high he’s hit four other times. Perhaps his best opportunity came on a 2-on-1 with Flynn with 3:19 to play in the second period. He one-timed a pass from Flynn down the left wing and Anderson sprawled across to make the save.
“I had some good looks and there’s not too many I can take back,” Vanek said. “[Flynn’s] 2-on-1 was a hard pass, it was a good pass from him. With the ice being what it is, I just wanted to make hard contact. I just couldn’t angle it to the left. I gotta bury one of those.”
The Sabres were able to mount the beginnings of a comeback on Wednesday when they went down 2-0 against Detroit, but on Friday, they fell short again.
“All of our games are going to be close and we have to battle every single night for every inch we get. We’re getting there, but again, it doesn’t get any easier for us,” Weber said. “We’re in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. You’ve got to find a way.”
There isn’t much time for the Sabres to be able to regroup. The Sabres face the Penguins on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Consol Energy Center.
“We’ve got to take baby steps at this point,” Rolston said. “We’re playing one of the best teams in the League, one of the most talented teams in the League. So we’ve gotta be better.”
Defenseman Henrik Tallinder left the game with 15:17 to play in the third period. Rolston said Tallinder sustained an upper-body injury and would need to be further evaluated.