There was once a time when the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres had one of the more heated rivalries in the NHL.
Tonight, we saw a bit of a resurgence of that rivalry. Sure, both teams have been bad for a long time and they’re mostly just competing for a lottery spot at this point, but there was real bad blood between them tonight. There was drama. There was intrigue. There were hits. Injuries. Highlight-reel goals. A player lighting up his former team.
It was an entertaining game.
It was an eventful first period, featuring many Sens goals and just as many Sens injuries. The first few minutes very much did look like a game between the 2022 Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres. Mistakes were made by the Sens, and the Sabres did not capitalize on them, because they are the Buffalo Sabres.
Stützle drew a penalty, but Ottawa’s powerplay continued to suck. Then a bad play led to Jeff Skinner getting a breakaway. Skinner actually scored on the breakaway, but in a cruel twist of fate, the whistle blew right before the puck crossed the line, and the goal was disallowed. We were still tied at zero, and justice for that terrible game winning goal a week ago had been served.
Unfortunately, the reason the whistle blew was because Dylan Gambrell was injured at the other end of the ice. Gambrell would not return to the game and would unfortunately not be the last Sens player to head down the tunnel.
Indeed, Chabot briefly left the game after getting his face smashed awkwardly into the glass. It initially looked pretty bad, but he did return to the game after very little time and appeared to be fine.
Thankfully, Ennis got the Sens on the board early on, off an absolutely beautiful pass from Adam Gaudette. Shades of MacArthur-to-Turris. That was also Ennis’s first goal since opening night. 1-0 Ottawa.
That dangle by Gauds on the setup 👀 pic.twitter.com/fL7hj7CrLP— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 26, 2022
The Sens got a powerplay right after that, and this time it actually worked! Uh. Sort of. Tim Stützle sent a beautiful shot ringing off the post, and then a Sabres player batted it into his own net. We’ll take it! The goal was initially awarded to Stützle, but Batherson ultimately got credit, as Timmy’s shot had bounced off him on its way to the net. 2-0 Ottawa.
It didn’t take long for Tyler Ennis to put the Sens up by three with his second goal of the game. 3-0 Ottawa.
That’s when things got really bad. As time expired in the first period, Sabres goaltender Aaron Dell hit Drake Batherson, sending him flying awkwardly into the boards. Batherson was visibly injured on the play and did not return to the game. Coach D.J. Smith later confirmed that he will be out for a while with an ankle injury and will miss the All-Star game.
Drake Batherson was forced to leave the game after being hit by Aaron Dell. pic.twitter.com/t6T66c6gdJ— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 26, 2022
The Sens were not happy about that hit, and they made that clear in the second period. The game was getting chippy and heavy-hitting, and Austin Watson was the first to straight up take a run at the goalie. His shit-eating grin after the fact was pretty great.
This is the type of game that could have gotten out of the Sens’ hands quickly, as it was clear that emotions were running high. To their credit, though, they appeared to channel those emotions into fantastic hockey, dominating play for most of the second period.
It paid off eventually, in the form of an amazing goal by Alex Formenton after a great back-and-forth play between him and Tim Stützle. Dell looked pretty silly on that one. 4-0 Ottawa.
The Sens got a few nice looks at the net after that, but none went in. My personal favourite moment was Brady Tkachuk trying out his brother’s signature move by putting the puck between his legs. He didn’t score on it, but it would have been really funny if he had.
The final frame was relatively uneventful, all things considered. The Sens continued to show surprising poise as they focused on beating the Sabres on the scoresheet rather than with their fists. They controlled the play for the remainder of the game and got a number of fantastic chances - including and early one from Austin Watson and a late one from Tyler Ennis - but couldn’t quite convert.
Finally, in the dying seconds of the game, former Buffalo Sabre Tyler Ennis showed us all why he’s the Best To Ever Do It by ripping one past Aaron Dell for his second career hat trick. What a way to close out the night.
The best part? Anton Forsberg throwing his hat onto the ice. This team, man.
- What more can be said about Tim Stützle and Alex Formenton? The two were Ottawa’s most dynamic duo tonight, looking dangerous on every shift and of course teaming up for the fourth goal. It’s especially noticeable how much Formenton’s confidence and patience has improved; he’s holding on to the puck a lot more these days and making much more complicated plays.
- I’m not even sure that Tyler Ennis did that many things differently in this game compared to what he usually does, but he did have a good game, and it was nice to see those chances finally go in for him. Those goals were well deserved and long overdue.
- It’s sometimes easy to forget about the guys who play well every night, but I thought Chabot was especially noticeable in this game, in a good way. He made a lot of really smart, skilled plays and was a big part of why the team dominated so much of the game.
- Brady Tkachuk tied a career high in shots, and came close to finding the back of the net a few times.
- Matt Murray made some very big stops in a well-deserved shutout./