OTTAWA – The Buffalo Sabres feel like their offense will break through soon. They’re creating more opportunities lately than they have all season and they have confidence it’s only a matter of time before it all starts coming together.
The Sabres and Senators wrapped up their home-and-home series Thursday night at Canadian Tire Center. Buffalo claimed a shootout victory in the first game, but Ottawa was able to split the series on their home ice, skating away with a 2-1 victory.
Bobby Ryan and Zack Smith scored for Ottawa. Kyle Turris recorded the primary assist on both goals. Craig Anderson stopped 40 Buffalo shots and was named the first star of the game.
“I think that was one of our better efforts, honestly,” Miller said. “They were going to be showing us a little more after losing in our building. They had more energy, more time to prepare. I thought we had the energy. We had some jump and we were creating. We just couldn’t get it all to click.”
Anderson came up big for the Senators on numerous occasions, including on two breakaway opportunities. Sabres captain Steve Ott could have given the Sabres a lead with 2:59 left in the first, but Anderson stopped him with his left pad. Then, with about 5 minutes remaining in the third period, Stafford stole the puck from Erik Karlsson and walked in on Anderson, but put it off his chest.
“I thought this was our best effort that we had so far. Any kind of breaks, Drew goes in on a breakaway, he puts that in, we tie it up. So you never know,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “But overall, the effort was there. We just gotta get maybe a little bit more net presence for some of those shots to take away the eyes of the goaltender so he can’t see it as well. But overall, the guys are competing and they’re working.”
The Sabres had numerous opportunities early in the second period including a point-blank chance by Ennis that Anderson speared with his glove at the 2:24 mark. Luke Adam also had a great chance less than a minute later, but a sprawling Anderson kept the puck out with his right pad.
The fact that they were able to generate so many chances on a season-high 41 shots is something the Sabres hope they can build upon.
“If you play like that, you’ll win games,” Sabres center Ville Leino said. “The best defense is to play in their zone and have puck possession. We’re making plays, making the right decisions. We’re not hesitant on our scoring chances. Pucks didn’t go in today, but in the long run, they will go in.”
Ottawa struck first when Ryan skated into the slot and deflected in a Turris pass from the right corner.
Buffalo capitalized on its first power play of the night when Ennis scored with 2:21 remaining in the opening period. The Sabres power play had not scored in the past four games. Ennis credited a good setup in the offensive zone and a nice pass from Drew Stafford.
“[Stafford] moved it low to me and I just tried to walk to the net,” he said. “They gave me a lot of time to walk it and take it in front and just try to throw it in. I got a good bounce.”
However, the power play failed to convert on any of the four other chances, including one with just over two minutes left in regulation. The Sabres did have a lot of zone time with the man advantage and Miller said it’s important for the team to keep creating good habits.
“When you see guys doing the right things, being in the right place, they tend to start scoring. Hopefully they can start carrying some confidence,” he said. “I thought these were good games for us. We were in tight games. We weren’t sitting back. We were trying to put pressure and it was good.”
Smith put the Senators up 2-1 at 6:30 of the second period. Turris held the puck in the left corner and tossed it out to the front of the net. Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder was unable to deflect the puck out of danger and it went right to Smith on the doorstep.
“That second one, it hits a stick and both me and Henrik are kind of going for it and then it goes right to a guy. It’s one of those things where they’re just throwing one across to see what happens,” Miller said. “It worked out for them. Usually those don’t usually work out. They usually end up being a turnover and you’re out of the zone. That’s the difference. It’s not easy, but I don’t think they overpowered us with anything. They capitalized on two opportunities and I thought we did a great job all night.”
Next up for the Sabres is a weekend game against a Western Conference opponent. They host the Calgary Flames on Saturday at First Niagara Center at 2 p.m.