Playing the second half of a back-to-back after the previous night’s win over the New York Rangers, the Ottawa Senators played a tired game against the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres weren’t so hot either, having lost their last eight consecutive games. But that didn’t stop them from piling on the goals, defeating the Senators by a score of 5-2.
For Sens fans, all eyes were on Joey Daccord, the young goalie who singlehandedly dragged Arizona State University to NCAA prominence. Playing in his first NHL game, the Sens didn’t give him much help, allowing a total 40 shots on goal in 60 minutes.
The Sens came out with fire, which has been something they’ve managed to do pretty consistently throughout the season. Anthony Duclair and Chris Tierney got to cycling the puck in the offensive zone, then finding Cody Ceci with a shooting lane at the point. Ceci’s shot was tipped by Duclair, to give Ottawa the early lead.
The goal was Duclair’s 19th for a season — not bad at all for a player who’s only had 17 total over his last two seasons. He’ll be playing his former team in Columbus on Saturday, maybe he can hit 20!
Ottawa continued to up the pressure, with Thomas Chabot coming really close to making the game 2-0, had Rasmus Ristolainen not swatted the puck off the goal line.
The momentum began to shift once the Sens started taking penalties, with Rudolfs Balcers in the box for hooking. It ended up being costly, as the Sabres took advantage to tie the game. With Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Dahlin manning the point, the recent #1 overall pick sent the puck to Olofsson for a one-timer. It flew over Daccord’s shoulder, for the first goal against of his NHL career. The shot was excellent, and Daccord could’ve maybe played it better had he timed his reaction later. But the game was tied 1-1.
Ottawa would quickly restore their lead, only 30 seconds later. With Mikkel Boedker back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch, he took a shot off a rush that flew into the air off the rebound. Carter Hutton couldn’t track it, and with a wide open net, Jean-Gabriel Pageau buried maybe his easiest goal of the year.
The rest of the period mostly belonged to Buffalo, save for another two minutes of Sens power play. The first frame ended with Ottawa holding onto a slim 2-1 lead.
Shots on goal were twelve apiece after the first, but the second was a different tale with Ottawa only getting five shots to Buffalo’s twelve. It resulted in two goals for the Sabres, which gave them the tie and then the lead.
The first was another power play goal, this time with Dylan DeMelo being penalized for hooking. Conor Sheary attempted to toss the puck through the crease, although it hit the skate of Sens defender Christian Jaros and went right to the stick of Kyle Okposo. The Sens didn’t have time to defend, with the game tied 2-2.
Even though the Sabres are on the outside of the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season, what can’t be lost are the improvements at the top of their lineup. Their first line of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart is one of the most dangerous trios in the league, combining for 200 points in 235 games and 40% of all Sabres goals. It was only a matter of time before they’d find the scoresheet, and they did, with Eichel putting on a clinic before finding Reinhart in front. The Sabres had stolen the lead, heading into the third period.
Theeeeennn the Sabres started to really pull away. Ottawa had a few nice chances off the rush, although very little sustained pressure. The one goal deficit turned into two, with Eichel picking up a rebound and swerving around Daccord for the goal.
4-2 turned to 5-2, as Daccord’s strong opening two periods didn’t continue into the third. Daccord is the best puckhandling goalie I’ve ever seen, and that’s no exaggeration. He can stickhandle with a goalie stick better than some skaters with a normal stick, and he normally has a knack for making smart decisions. This was not one of those times, unfortunately, as he flung the puck around the boards to Jason Pominville, who just had to shoot at the open net before Daccord could recover. This was a “welcome to the NHL” moment if I’ve ever seen one.
The tank was empty for the Sens, as they could barely generate anything in the final seven minutes. No push to tie, no defensive pressure, nothing. The Sabres cruised to a 5-2 victory, snapping their eight-game losing streak.
- Even though there were some tough moments, Daccord still deserves a shoutout after having to handle the defensive dud the Sens gave him (not too much of a difference from Arizona State). His potential is palpable.
- The Sens Killer was without a doubt Jack Eichel — a goal, two assists, and a force to be reckoned with on every shift.
- Thomas Chabot had a rough night defensively, on the ice at 5v5 for 11 shot attempts for Ottawa and 37 for Buffalo.
- Bruce Garrioch reported during intermission that a long-term Cody Ceci extension seems likely, unless they can’t come to a deal in which case they’ll turn to a trade. If he ends up with that extension, then that’s all the reason we need to not trust Dorion with this rebuild.
The Sens play their final game of the season at home, trying to spoil the Columbus Blue Jackets’ playoff hopes. Saturday at 7:00 pm.