The Buffalo Sabres shook up their line combinations in practice coming into their matchup against the Ottawa Senators. The changes seemed to pay off.
Tuesday night, the Sabres put 36 shots on goal – matching a season-high – and defeated Ottawa 2-1 in the shootout at First Niagara Center. Zemgus Girgensons scored both Buffalo’s lone goal in regulation and the decisive tally in the top of the 10th round of the shootout.
Ryan Miller turned aside 35 Senators shots en route to his fourth shootout victory of the season. He's 4-0 on the year in the shootout.
Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Miller is 7-4-2 against the Senators with a .940 save percentage and a 2.03 goals against average.
The Sabres improved to 54-41 all-time in shootouts, including a 7-4 all-time record against Ottawa.
Milan Michalek scored for Ottawa, giving them a 1-0 lead 6:25 into the contest. He connected on a cross-ice feed from wing Cory Conacher. Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner made 35 saves.
Girgensons skated with left wing Matt Moulson and center Tyler Ennis. They led Sabres forwards in ice time in even-strength situations. Girgensons extended his point streak to three games when he tied the game with 6:45 to play in the second period. He has two goals and an assist over that span.
“I think we just worked as a team today. That’s why we came out with the win,” he said. “All the guys were going. Our line was going all the time, we could’ve had a couple more here and our line just clicked here.”
On his goal, Girgensons beat Senators defenseman Joe Corvo to a rebound fired by Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. The puck came right back to Girgensons who put it home on a surprised Lehner.
“I think he’s getting rewarded for his work,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “He’s always worked and good things happen when you do that. Now he’s getting some breaks. Not too often he’s going to get a goal from where he did tonight, but I think it’s a good reward for a kid who’s worked so hard. ”
Buffalo thought they had taken the lead with 4:30 remaining in the second. During a delayed penalty, Sabres defenseman Jamie McBain, from behind the goal line, tossed the puck out toward the front of the net. When the puck reached a flailing Lehner, the official blew the play dead even as the puck crossed the goal line.
The officials gathered by the penalty box twice to review the play, waving it off both times.
“Once they say it’s no goal, it’s no goal. They’re not going to change their mind or the League’s not going to change their mind once, especially a blown call as in blown whistle call,” Sabres captain Steve Ott said. “They can’t reverse it and that’s he thought it was. It’s a judgment call. It could go either way. Next time maybe we get the right break and it helps us out.”
According to Rule 15.1 "When the team to be penalized gains control of the puck, the Referee will blow his whistle to stop play and impose the penalty on the offending player."
The NHL’s Situation Room issued the following statement as part of their review:
“This is not a reviewable play therefore the referee's call on the ice stands. No goal Buffalo.”
Nolan was happy to see his team bounce back the way they did and win it in the shootout.
“That was probably the best part of the game. It was devastating when they called back the goal and you could tell the guys were a little bit deflated, but they overcame it,” he said. “They forgot about it and they moved on. To get a win like that, it was an emotional win for us.”
Miller hopes that when the team faces adversity again in the future, that they’ll be able to draw on an experience like this, where a call didn’t go their way but they were still able to persevere.
“Hopefully guys can remember that something didn’t really go our way and we were able to win still and that can be a positive because there’s too many time this year where negative things happen and we’re like ‘Here we go again,’” Miller said. “Tonight was one where something big could’ve happened for us, could’ve gotten the lead there and it didn’t happen. And we had to find a way, so it was good.”
Buffalo killed off consecutive penalties midway through the first period. Ottawa’s power play went 0-for-3 in the game.
The Senators had played the night before as they the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 in Ottawa. They’ll wrap up a stretch of three games in four nights when they host the Sabres on Thursday to wrap up the home-and-home series. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.