A day later, Sabre fans might be pondering why their team can't beat Ottawa. In what amounted to an important divisional showdown at HSBC Arena last night, they were Senator'd again. With two big points up for grabs facing a red hot team chasing them for the Northeast, Buffalo fell to their bitter rival 4-2, allowing the Sens to pull within three. It was the Sabres' second consecutive tough loss. They also fell to the Pens 5-4 the other night, victimized by a Sidney Crosby hat trick.
For Lindy Ruff's club, the good news is they still are in first with two games at hand. The bad is that with their franchise record 10th straight win, Ottawa has now beaten the Sabres eight times in a row. In four meetings this season, Buffalo has gotten only a brownie point and been outscored 13-7 discounting Alex Kovalev's Dec.26 shootout decider. There are two games left with both coming in the final three weeks of the season, including an April 10 road match on the second to last day. Hopefully by then, they'll have found a remedy for the Sens' dominance.
What made yesterday's latest defeat exasperating was that Buffalo once again fought back from a two-goal deficit to tie it thanks to goals 27 seconds apart from Andrej Sekera and Tim Connolly, pumping up the crowd. One thing about this team, no matter how they're playing, they never give up. Case in point, the Pens' got four straight Monday but Ryan Miller slammed the door, allowing Jason Pominville to make it too close for comfort. With their franchise netminder on the bench, they came real close to tying it. The same can be echoed following Sabre killer Daniel Alfredsson's stunning go-ahead marker with just a minute to spare off a great pass by rookie D Erik Karlsson. Even in full scramble mode, Ruff's club nearly forced overtime with Paul Gaustad or as Sabre faithful refer to him as Moose was denied by Brian Elliott.
That kind of fighting spirit is a winning trait which could bode well. If only they hadn't fallen into the trap a second straight game of getting into a wide open run n' gun. Against the super skilled Pens, the fall from grace was predictable. To both teams' credit last night, they went for it playing the kind of firewagon hockey that keeps you on the edge of your seat. That style doesn't suit this Sabre team, who must get back to tightening it up around Miller's net. Something they realize.
After outshooting their feisty opponent 13-5 in the opening stanza, the Sabres gave up a combined 32 shots the final 40 minutes. Sure. They fired 23 themselves but that's way too many for a team that prides itself on D, making Miller's life easier. When they're playing a gritty, physical in your face style, that's when these Sabres excel. Precisely the recipe they'll need against those Sens and the rest of the way.
“One minute left—we can’t let that guy stand all alone on the backdoor,” a frustrated Henrik Tallinder expressed. “It stings.”
“We battled hard in the third to get back in it,” Ruff said. “The best description is we just found another way to lose a game.”
It's there for the taking.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Daniel Alfredsson, Ott (GW w/60 seconds left plus ENG)
2nd Star-Brian Elliott, Ott (34 saves for 8th consecutive win-allowed 2 or fewer in every start)
1st Star-Jason Spezza, Ott (2 goals extends scoring streak to 7 straight-8-1-9)