The last time the Ottawa Senators played the Sabres, they never led the game but won it in a shootout. This time, it was the Sabres who never led but walked away with the two points.
It was a night where the Senators outplayed their opponents for long stretches of the game, yet were repeatedly prevented from breaking the game wide open by a goalie playing a great game. Typically this season, that has been Ottawa's formula behind Craig Anderson, so being on the other end gives fans a sense of exactly how frustrating that can be.
Things started off well enough for the Senators as they opened the scoring with a beautiful shorthanded goal (are there any ugly shorties?). With Milan Michalek in the box for interference, Chris Phillips blocked a shot in front of the net, and chipped the puck to Erik Condra. Condra then chipped the puck off the boards to give himself a breakaway and beat Miller with a quick shot.
That lead would last for a while, but the Senators' best effort in a second period in a long time wasn't enough to put the Sabres away. The Sens recorded 21 shots to Buffalo's 13, but walked out of the period tied 2-2. Nathan Gerbe tied the game at one for the Sabres when he fired a low shot past a completely screened Ben Bishop. Bishop didn't have much chance on the goal, which would be a theme on the night. Erik Karlsson restored Ottawa's lead with a shot that simply had no business going in--it wasn't just a bad angle, it was practically behind the net. But the puck bounced its way in, and it was 2-1 Ottawa.
Unfortunately, the Sabres tied the game again with 19 seconds left as Tyler Ennis beat Bishop.
In the third period, Karlsson would once again restore the Senators' lead as he pounced on a loose puck and sniped a shot past Ryan Miller. And still, the Senators could not put the Sabres away as Marcus Foligno recorded his first NHL goal in his second NHL game, some kind of flutterer that somehow got by Bishop, who is rumored to be tall, but still had a puck go over him.
Once the game got to overtime, the Senators once again had outstanding pressure but could not seal the game as Miller stymied every great chance they could put together. Once Karlsson took a tripping penalty and then an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for complaining about his tripping penalty, the Senators were simply in hang on mode until the shootout.... which turned out to be a bad plan because on one end was Bishop, playing in just his third game for the Sens, and on the other end was Ryan Miller, who is generally hard to beat (unless you're Sidney Crosby).
Only Daniel Alfredsson scored for the Senators in the skills competition, while Jason Pominville and Ennis were able to beat Bishop, who definitely looked inexperienced, and rightfully so. Both players are great shooters, and stopping one is a tall order. Stopping both is asking too much.
It's one of those "coulda, shoulda, woulda" games. The team earned a point, but easily could have had two. Not much else to say. The Senators clearly knew the Sabres were a desperate team with the way they continually pressured them, but couldn't find the kill shot tonight.
(read on for heroes and zeros...)
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
With two goals in the game, Karlsson made quite an impact. He also led the team with six shots on goal, and led numerous rushes up ice. I would have preferred to see him pass more on some of those rushes, but there's no doubt he came to play tonight, and there was doubt that was even going to suit up. When he's determined, Karlsson makes a difference for his team, and he was definitely determined in this one.
Honorable mention: Ben Bishop
Really couldn't be faulted on any of the goals tonight, even if he looked shaky in the shootout. Bishop gave his team a chance to win tonight--they just couldn't.
Sens Killer: Ryan Miller
Man, I hate this guy. The game should have been 7-3 Senators, but Miller gave his team a chance to win tonight--and they did.
Sens Killer:Robyn Regehr
Officially a minus-2 on the night, I thought he did an outstanding job of shutting down Jason Spezza, who was credited with four shots on net, none particularly dangerous. Spezza actually looked a little hesitant to cross the blue line, leading to at least two offsides calls that I can remember. Regehr was on the ice for both Karlsson goals, and watching them in the highlights, I don't see what anyone could have asked him to do on either one. His job was to shut down the top line, and he did it very well.
Sens Zero: Milan Michalek
Accounting for fully 50% of Ottawa's PIMs tonight while recording just one shot on goal--probably because he spent so much time in the box--Michalek just didn't bring it. I thought that he'd be able to use his speed against the oafish, mouth-breathing Troglodyte that is Tyler Myers, but the speed of Buffalo's forwards didn't really leave Michalek with much space. There were not many clean breaks through the neutral zone tonight.
This really happened:
But hey, I don't know any of the French lyrics to "O Canada", so I'm not judging. Kudos to all the Sens fans in attendance for not making it weird for her. Sabres fans in attendance probably didn't know the words either, so they can take the last train to Uppercut City, for all I care.