We probably should have seen this coming all along: A low-scoring game between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres with a single goal separating winner from loser. And overtime, and then a shootout, were necessary even to get that far.
This time around, it was Buffalo getting the win, largely thanks to goaltender Jhonas Enroth and forward Derek Roy. Ottawa took the lead in the first when Milan Michalek scored a nice five-hole goal, and managed to hold the Sabres to just six shots on Craig Anderson in that first frame. In the second, back-to-back markers by Roy and Jordan Leopold put the Sabres up by one, but Erik Condra knotted the game at two shortly thereafter. The Sabres put huge pressure on Ottawa in the third, taking ten shots at Anderson while limiting the Sens to just three shots on Enroth, but regulation ended with the game still tied.
Neither team had much going in overtime, so the Sens went to the shootout looking to maintain their perfect shootout record this season. They couldn't. Despite goals by Michalek and Jason Spezza in the shootout and a few saves by Anderson, Buffalo won the it and took two points out of Ottawa.
Sens Hero: Zack Smith
This was Z. Smith hockey at its best: Buzzing all night (in plenty of ice time, too), killing penalties well (he and Erik Condra led Ottawa forwards in SH TOI), terrific in the faceoff circle (won 15 of 20 draws), played physical, drove to the net, drew a penalty, and made a sweet pass on the game-tying goal. Perhaps the best game of Zmith's career, definitely his strongest of this season.
Sens Killer: Derek Roy
Roy's always been a Sens killer, so it's little surprise that he ended a nine-game goalless drought against Ottawa, and scored the shootout winner to give Buffalo the extra point. Including Saturday's game, Roy has 13G and 19A (32P) in 40GP against the Senators
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Andy stopped 31 of 33 shots faced in regulation and overtime, plus a few more in the shootout. He couldn't steal a win for the Sens, but without some clutch saves by Anderson--especially in the third period--this game wouldn't have even made it to overtime. Which is a huge relief to Sens fans, considering his GAA remains above 3 and his save percentage is still below .900.
Sens Hero: Milan Michalek
Nine is the magic number for Michalek tonight: Mach Nine scored his ninth of the season, and directed nine shots towards the Buffalo net (although only three of them actually hit the net; three were blocked, and three went wide). If we want to take things even further, he played exactly 18:45 of ice time in 27 shifts; 18, 45, and 27 are all multiples of nine. (I don't know what it all means, but I'm sure it's relevant.) He also scored a beauty of a shootout goal, and is a perfect three-for-three in shootouts this year.
Honourable mention: Chris Phillips
Phillips has really turned around his game since the beginning of the season (forget about last year), and had a very strong game on Saturday. In 21:34 TOI, Phillips had a team-high five hits and just played some strong defence. They're mostly small plays, but his decision making has really picked up. Plus he made a nice pass to Michalek on the Sens' first goal, which certainly helps.
Still Struggling: Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson
Both of these guys are still working their butts off, but they're on serious cold streaks. Spezza has now been held off the scoresheet for four straight games, and Karlsson hasn't had a point in his last three. They're playing well, for the most part, and are still doing the right things, so you've got to think the points will come soon. Still, it's going to be tough for Ottawa to win when these two don't score (especially while Daniel Alfredsson's out of the lineup).
Step right up: Kaspars Daugavins
The Rooster has done a very impressive job trying to fill the void left behind by Alfredsson. He played a lot against Buffalo--16:24, a career high--and didn't look out of place at all. He plays tough, grinds along the boards, and his pass to Jesse Winchester was terrific, even if Winchester couldn't finish it. Daug's definitely turned some heads so far with Ottawa.
Better than I remember: Tyler Myers
Was anyone else really impressed with Myers tonight? He didn't have a point and finished minus-one, but I realized I hadn't given him enough credit for his skating. I had assumed he was just a big guy who can clear the front of the net, but he's a darn good skater, too.