BUFFALO – Afternoon hockey games are not exactly the Ottawa Senators cup of tea.
Heading into Buffalo on Saturday, the Senators held a 2-5-0 record in games that started earlier than 7 p.m. Fortunately, they found a cure to improve that mark to 3-5-0: a 4-3 overtime victory over the Sabres to affirm Ottawa’s place in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff pack.
Do the Senators feel more comfortable when they’re up by two goals or down by a pair?
It’s hard to tell. This team consistently battles back from deficits as though they are nothing but a fly to swat. A temporary nuisance.
As they did in Montreal, the Senators fought back from down two-goals to take the lead into the third period.
Naturally, in the end a one-goal game was in order. A third period tying goal by Buffalo’s Drew Stafford, a shot that deflected off Zach Smith’s stick, ensured a typical nail-biter ending for the Senators and their fans.
Kyle Turris played the role of hero, lifting a shot to the roof of the net at 3:54 of OT. It was his second of the game.
Ben Bishop made a couple of game saving stops in the third period, including a pad save on Thomas Vanek.
“We don’t like playing just 60 minutes,” joked Bishop, after Ottawa’s 11th straight one-goal game.
Painful is the only word to describe how hometown fans felt watching Turris beat beleaguered Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller with a wraparound goal, just one minute and three seconds before the end of the second period. It wasn’t a neat tuck in by Turris, he simply threw it into the crease and let Miller do the rest – the big goalie inadvertently kicked it into his own net as he tried to get the right pad across to the post.
Seconds later, Sabres defenceman Robin Regehr dropped the gloves against Ottawa’s Chris Neil, who had delivered several big hits in the game.
Whatever was said in the dressing room in the first intermission must have worked.
“I’d have to go to confession if I told you,” head coach Paul MacLean said.
After a sleepy first period, the Senators came out charging in the second 20 minutes. Daniel Alfredsson rang a shot off the post before Patrick Wiercioch – the blueline sniper?! — hammered home his fourth goal of the season, a slap shot from the left side.
“I don’t know what it is,” Wiercioch said of his goal scoring prowess. “I’m not taping my stick differently.”
That goal, at 4:03 of the second, cut the Sabres lead to 2-1.
And then it was tied. No surprise, except the way it went in.
On a crazy ricochet of a Chris Phillips shot from the point, the puck hit Sabres defenceman Jordan Leopold and then floated up and over Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller, who looked up helplessly as the puck sailed past him.
Maybe the shadow of big Matt Kassian standing in from of him, distracted Miller.
As was the case on the Phillips goal, the Sabres earlier proved yet again that often the most dangerous shot in hockey is the innocent-looking wrister from the point. After several early chances, Buffalo probably earned the good fortune of this seeing-eye wrist shot from defenceman Mike Weber at 8:52 of the first period, the puck scooting through a crowd to beat Bishop on the stick side. It was Weber’s first goal of the season in his 22nd game.
In one of his first shifts with his new team, the enforcer Kassian was on the ice for the Sabres goal, but was more of an innocent bystander and a bit unlucky to take the minus.
Less than seven minutes later, Ottawa went down 2-0 as Drew Stafford shoveled in a loose puck, after it rattled around like a pinball before settling in Bishop’s crease. After some good puck movement in the Ottawa zone, Nathan Gerbe had taken the shot near the faceoff circle. Marc Methot blocked it, but the puck bounced into the crease when Stafford was standing all alone in front of Bishop.
Kyle Turris “was probably our best forward,” said head coach Paul MacLean of his overtime hero.
To NHL linesman that refuse to drop the puck at faceoffs until everything is perfectly in order. Two minutes for delaying the game!
WHY THEY WON
Because they’re the ‘Pesky’ Sens. When they fall behind, they chip away, close the gap.