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Another Unforgettable Season Finale

Buffalo beat Ottawa in overtime to get Craig Anderson the win in what might have been his final NHL game.

Score: Sabres – 4 | Senators – 3

Shots: BUF – 36 | OTT – 33

Buffalo Sabres Goals: Jokiharju (3), Olofsson (27), Thompson (47), Mittelstadt (14)

Ottawa Senators Goals: Stutzle (39), Gambrell (4), Giroux (35)

Plus 1: Sending Andy Out in Style

Whether Buffalo was still in the running to make the playoffs or not, it was always the goal to give Craig Anderson the start against his old team, Ottawa, in the final home game of the season. As it turned out, with the Sabres eliminated from playoff contention after the Devils game, Anderson starting on Thursday night was a given, which shaped up for another dramatic home finale.

And dramatic it was.

After a solid first period, Anderson let in three goals in the second, one of which being an extremely questionable “redirection” off the skate of Giroux. Despite the events, Andy held strong in the third, and was rewarded during overtime as the Sabres were able to keep all the action down at the Senators end of the ice. Once the game winner was in the back of the net, instead of going to celebrate with the goal scorer, the entire Buffalo bench immediately took off toward Andy and mobbed the 41-year-old goaltender. Even the Ottawa players and coaches stayed out on the ice to congratulate Anderson, a classy gesture by an organization he had given so much to.

It was awesome to see everyone on the Sabres roster realize the importance of the moment, and came through for Anderson in what might be his last NHL game. It was surely a memorable night for him and his family, as well as for the fans and the Sabres organization.

Plus 2: Mittelstadt Mode

Has any Sabres player ever shown as much improvement in one season as Casey Mittelstadt has this year?

You’d be hard pressed to find another candidate who went from scapegoat and borderline unwanted, to a crucial part of a team’s success, all within 82 games. But that’s what Mittelstadt has done, and man does he look like a totally different player from the first few months of the season. His playmaking has been lethal, and he has found the back of the net more often recently, as both aspects were impactful to beating the Senators.

With 13 points in his last nine games, Mittelstadt continued his hot streak, adding two points against Ottawa, one of which being the overtime winning goal. On top of that, this was the second year in row Mittelstadt scored the game winner in overtime during the home finale, as he helped the Sabres beat Chicago during RJ’s final game last year.

While he needs to play a full season’s worth at this production before the Sabres should consider resigning him, Mitts is on the right track to turning the corner of a successful NHL career.

Plus 3: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Sending off Andy the right way, as well as honoring the fans on Fan Appreciation Night, was a success as Buffalo once again proved they can win the emotional games at home (Eichel’s first game back, RJ night, Ryan Miller night, etc.).

While the Sabres year overall was a success, and they ended their games at KeyBank Center on a high note, on the bad (and sometimes ugly) side, they need to play better at home next season. They had the sixth worst home record in the league this season (17-20-4), and were blown out at their own rink on multiple occasions. However, wins like the one on Thursday night help to soften the blow of a rough home record, while I also fully expect the Sabres to improve their performance at KeyBank in 23-24.

Final Thoughts

Who would’ve thought Jeff Skinner would turn into an assist machine? While still scoring 34 goals this season, Skinner has far surpassed his career high in assists (45), as he notched three more against Ottawa.

Tage Thompson’s goal against the Senators put him at 47 on the season, just three shy of 50, with tomorrow’s game the final one of the season. However, the last time the Sabres played the Jackets in Columbus, Thompson scored five times, making me believe that nothing’s impossible.

Finally, how cool is it that Devon Levi drew his own designs onto his black and red helmet, since he hadn’t had one made for him yet? Would’ve loved to see him out in the goathead jersey, but you know, Andy had to go and steal the show.

The Sabres will immediately head to Columbus for the season finale in a matchup with the Blue Jackets. Puck drop will be at 7:30 pm.