The Sabres were able to close out the first half of the season strong, defeating the Ottawa Senators in their final game before the All-Star break by a score of 3-2.
Buffalo came out firing in the first period, outshooting the Senators 13-5. Erik Karlsson was able to put the Sens in front early, scoring his 11th of the season following a scrum in front of Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner. Dan Bylsma would challenge the play, believing that Lehner was interfered with and physically unable to stop the puck, but the referees confirmed the call on the ice, and the Sabres lost their time out early.
Evander Kane tied the game shortly after Karlsson’s goal, banking the puck off of Senators’ goalie Craig Anderson’s pad and into the back of the net he initially misplayed it. Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen tried to pass the puck to his goaltender, but Anderson was not able to handle it. Kane was able to get his stick on the puck and score his 11th of the season, tying the game at one apiece.
Roughly ten minutes into the second period, the Senators would retake the lead, as the puck went off of Mark Pysyk’s skates directly to Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan, who had an empty net to slide the puck into. The Senators wouldn’t keep the lead for long, however, as Jack Eichel would tie the game on the power play. Eichel noticed that both teams had gone off for a change, and took the puck into the offensive zone by himself. He wrapped the puck around the net to score his 15th of the season, and his second career goal against the Senators, the team he scored his first career goal against. Lehner would pick up his first point as a Sabre, having the only assist for the Sabres on the night.
Just over one minute into the third period, Jack Eichel would score his second of the game, giving the Sabres the 3-2 lead. The rest of the period would be all Senators, as they outshot the Sabres 22-2 in the third. Ottawa would go on the power play in the closing minutes of the game following a Mike Weber hooking penalty, and would pull their goalie to give themselves the two man advantage.
Fans at the Canadian Tire Centre erupted when Ottawa forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau slid the puck past Lehner in the final second of the game, but after further review, it was determined that time had expired before the puck crossed the line, and the Sabres escaped Ottawa with the win.
Jack Eichel was one of the bright spots of the night, scoring two goals on just five shots. Eichel scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals. He finished the game with a +1 rating, and was named the first star.
Robin Lehner was finally able to pick up his first win as a Sabre, and it was fittingly against the team that drafted him just seven years ago. Lehner stopped 34 out of the Senators’ 36 shots, and had multiple highlight reel saves in the third period alone.
The next time Buffalo takes the ice will be February 3rd, when the Sabres take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. You can catch Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly at the All-Star Game this weekend, as he plays for the Jaromir Jagr-captained Atlantic Division squad.