The Buffalo Sabres mounted another third period comeback tonight, defeating the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, at the Canadian Tire Centre. Despite being out-shot 40 to 25, the boys in blue and gold were able to score two goals in the final frame to beat their division rivals for the fourth time this season.
Robin Lehner backed up his strong words after the loss to Vancouver on Sunday by making 38 saves in a game where his defensive supporting cast left a lot to be desired.
In the first period, the Sabres wasted no time scoring. Ryan O’Reilly potted his 12th of the season just 24 seconds into the game. O’Reilly took advantage of a nice pass from line mate Kyle Okposo and hammered a slap shot past Senators goalie Craig Anderson. Justin Falk also registered an assist on the play. The period was played very evenly from that point on. At 14:45 Bobby Ryan also scored his 12th of the year, tying the game at one heading into intermission.
As they have all season long, the Sabres struggled mightily in the second period, being outshot 16-7 in the middle frame. Robin Lehner did the best he could to preserve the 1-1 tie, but eventually relented at 14:33 when Dion Phaneuf scored his eighth of the season. The Sabres failed miserably to keep the puck out of their own end during the second. Poor outlet passing and dubious passing decisions by the defensive corps allowed the Senators to maintain pressure throughout. Fortunately for the blue and gold, Lehner was on his game, which allowed his team to mount one of their famous third period pushes.
Similar to the way they did in period one, Buffalo came flying into the final frame. Matt Moulson nabbed his 12th of the season just 51 seconds in, tying the game at 2-2. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart both assisted on the play, registering their 17th and 24th, respectively. The Sabres took the momentum and ran with it, applying their best pressure of the night in the Ottawa zone.
Justin Bailey scored his first career game winning goal at 7:38, deflecting a point shot from Jake McCabe. Coach Dan Bylsma sang Bailey’s praises post-game.
“He was real dangerous with his speed” said Bylsma. “Maybe not the typical goal from Bailey, but he put himself in the right position.”
In the waning minutes of regulation, Ottawa mounted an aggressive push to try and tie the game and force extra minutes, but Lehner slammed the door shut on several prime opportunities, and led his team in a must-win situation.
Though it was frustrating to see the Sabres take their collective feet off of the gas in the last ten minutes of the third period, this team will take wins however they can down the stretch. At 24-23-10, they are currently tied for fifth in the Atlantic division, just five points out of playoff position. Buffalo will have to find a way to string together consecutive victories moving forward if they hope to keep pace with the up-start Maple Leafs, who currently hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Though they continued to struggle in their own end, requiring stellar goaltending tonight, the squad looked hungry, showing excellent overall effort.
The team will look to win back-to-back games for the first time since January 24th, when they take on the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night at KeyBank Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30pm.