Desperate, I was seeking respite from America's version of Brexit. A hockey game was what I went with.
On the heels of a pitiful showing against the hated Boston Bruins on Monday, the Buffalo Sabres hosted a struggling Senators squad. Could they pull off a win in front of the new Divided States of America crowd before them?
Just three minutes into the game, Derek Grant won a face off in the Ottawa zone, directly leading to the second goal of the season for rookie Nicholas Baptiste. Called up from the AHL's Rochester Americans earlier in the day, Cole Schneider picked up an assist, for the first NHL point of his career. A bit of redemption on the play for Grant, a former Senators draft pick, and Schneider, former Ottawa property. It was a fairly matched affair in the period, as the teams were equal with 8 shots apiece.
In the second period, Ottawa was hoping to buck their trend of scoring two goals or less in 7 of their last 8 games. Seven minutes in, Ryan Dzingel ignited those hopes for Senators fans, when he split the Sabres defensive pairing of Dmitri Kulikov and Rasmus Ristolainen in a slick play to beat Robin Lehner, and tie the game at 1-1.
Later in the period, Buffalo displayed some defensive heroics, in killing off a 90 second Senators two man advantage. Near the end of the sequence, the Sabres missed a golden opportunity for a short handed two man breakaway on an errant outlet pass.
in the third stanza, Buffalo continued the trend of blowing great chances. The Sabres were handed a gift horse when Erik Karlsson was called for hooking on a Marcus Foligno opportunity, on what looked to me to be a clean defensive play. Buffalo, in what became the recurring theme of the night, wasted their chances.
As the game progressed into the 3-on-3 overtime, the Sabres dominated possession, maintaining the puck for 3:20 of the 5 minutes. Zemgus Girgensons had the clearest attempt at winning the game; alas, his shot bounced off a crossbar, then off of the left post, before the puck decided not to enter the net.
In the shootout, Sam Reinhart shot the puck through the five-hole of Senators goalie Condon in the first attempt. Ottawa's Kyle Turris responded with five-hole goal of his own on Robin Lehner. Kyle Okposo and Brian Gionta were both stymied by Condon stick-checks, while Bobby Ryan juked Lehner to the ground for an easy win.
Evander Kane returned from his cracked ribs tonight, and Dan Bylsma did not ease him back in, as Kane skated over 20 minutes in regulation. The team was without Tyler Ennis and Ryan O'Reilly, which seemed to disjoint any solid chemistry amongst the top two lines of Buffalo.
It was Rip Simonik's 3500th game for the Sabres, as he is now the last original member of the inaugural team of 1970.
Josh Gorges played exceptionally well tonight. He stopped a Sens breakaway chance in the first period, and was soundly blocking shots later in the game. Jake McCabe continues to be a quiet surprise, playing solidly defensively and looking fluid offensively when given open ice.
I have not been a fan of Derek Grant thus far, but he was dominant in the face off circle with O'Reilly absent. When I last checked, he had won 85% of his draws. Marcus Foligno was in beast mode tonight, bringing physicality and offensive chances with it.
Buffalo, at this point, lacks finish in their game. Lehner has been great. With a fully healthy lineup, I am confident that they can be contenders. Yet, will that day ever come? The best teams in the league know how to win minus stars in the ilk of Jack Eichel, but Buffalo could not get it done tonight, on home ice, in a game they could have won.