OTTAWA -- Tally-ho from high atop Scotiabank Place, where the press box attendents are dressed in green, the Irish music is flowing through the building and the Senator logo at center ice is illuminated by a green spotlight as the fans find their seats for tonight's Sabres-Senators game.
Gotta believe downtown's Byward Market, one of the neatest places to eat and drink in any NHL city, will be one hopping place the rest of the evening (Kudos, as always, to the Fish Market restaurant in the market). Of course, it's a wonder I got from the hotel adjacent to the market to this massive arena, which is in the burbs about 9 miles and 50 minutes through bumper-to-bumper traffic away. Yeeesh.
Anyway, you know the deal with tonight's game. The Sabres are 1-3-1 against Ottawa this season and 0-3 since Cory Clouston took over as Sens coach on Feb. 2. The Sabres are 1-5-2 in their last eight road games. They're 10th in the East, three points out of eighth, and there's a bunch of key games tonight. The Rangers are at Montreal, Pittsburgh is hosting Atlanta and Florida is hosting Washington.
Speaking of the Thrashers, did you see they won their franchise-record sixth in a row last night with a 5-1 thumping of Washington? Did you see that Kari Lehtonen made 49 saves? Does it make you feel better after what happened Saturday night in HSBC? Didn't think so.
Also tonight, keep an eye on Patrick Kane & Co's trip to New Jersey as the Blackhawks try to derail Martin Brodeur's bid for his NHL-record 552nd career victory.
Lineups: Mike Comrie (flu) is out for Ottawa. Andrew Peters is in for the Sabres with Adam Mair (knee) out. The starters are Paille-Roy-Stafford-Spacek-Sekera.
Of note: All the penalties are killing the forwards' ice time. Vanek has played just 8:08 so far and Stafford just 8:48.
17:05: Now Stafford is in the box for elbowing, a silly retaliation against Heatley. That's seven in a row. At least the Sabres have two good shots in this period, by Stafford after 12 seconds and a point-blanker by Paille that was stopped by Elliott after a Kaleta steal.
16:30: And the puck is in the net to make it 3-2. Had to happen. A two-on-one as Spezza feathers a perfect pass to Alfredsson over the stick of a diving Sekera. No chance for Tellqvist.
15:24 left: Ruff didn't want to go home with his timeout today like he did Saturday so he called it now. Little late, I'd say.
11:34 left: Holy cow, a real live penalty on the Senators. Jarkko Ruutu goes for closing his hand on the puck. No shots for Buffalo, by the way, in the last six minutes. It's 34-9 for the game.
9:21 left: Nothing on the power play and Gaustad goes off for high sticking. Incredible. That's 9-2 on the penalty count.
8:34 left: And the third power play goal of the night makes it 4-2. This one comes from the point on a blast from Bell, his second of the night.
5:45 left: Ottawa's Phillips off for interference. I'm not a fan of that call either frankly.
It's over: A 4-2 final. Another killer. Shots were 36-13. Just a horrible performance for a key game in March.
Of note: Pominville's first-period goal was his first five-on-five tally since Jan. 1 at Toronto and just his second in the last 52 games! Downright unbelievable (the NHL counts his late tying goal Feb. 13 against San Jose as a five-on-five goal but it shouldn't. That came on a 6-on-5 with Ryan Miller on the bench. ... Sabres have to watch it in the next 20 minutes. They've been outscored by the Senators, 11-2, in the middle period this season and outshot by the Sens, 71-45. We'll see how this goes.
18:30 left: Bad start. Just a few seconds after the penalty ends Jason Spezza feeds Dany Heatley for a tap-in, his 33rd of the year, to cut the lead to 2-1. Brutal work in the corner by Sekera, who was easily pushed off the puck by Brendan Bell. And Spacek had a chance to clear a few seconds earlier too.
16:50 left: Huge save from Tellqvist as Shean Donovan breaks in, walking right around Lydman. Sabres haven't shown up for this period. I warned you in the of note section above.
14:21 left: Ryan Shannon does his best Kaleta impression running the Sabres around in their zone and the result is a foolish frustration interference penalty on Tallinder.
13:53 left: And just like that, we're tied at 2-2 as Alfredsson finds Bell with a beautiful cross-ice pass for a one-timer from the circle to Tellqvist's left. Two penalties on Tallinder, two pucks in the Buffalo net (yes, the first was not a PP goal but that's quibbling).
12:39 left: Lydman is catching his partner's disease. Another ticky-tack interference call in the neutral zone.
9:13 left: Did the Sabres come on the ice in this period? Shots are 8-1 for Ottawa -- and 21-7 overall.
7:48 left: Another penalty. Moore for boarding. (Probably should have been Afinogenov for elbowing). Can't stay out of the box, you can't win.
5:05 left: A horrible giveaway by Rivet doesn't result in a goal but the puck never leaves the zone and Vanek is nailed for hooking. That's five -- yes, five -- penalties in a row on the Sabres, who have completely lost their heads. Mired in stupidity I would say.
2:10 left: Just give Tallinder a permanent spot in the box. He's back there again for holding. That's six in a row. Three on him.
End of the 2nd: The Sabres have somehow survived one of the most ridiculous periods in their recent history to still be in a 2-2 tie. Shots were 13-1 in the period and 26-7 for the game. The Buffalo shot was by Roy with 17:58 left. Don't remember it at all.
15:58 left: The start you want as Toni Lydman one-times home a Pominville pass to make it 1-0. It's Lydman's second of the year and first since Dec. 12
The lines are pretty interesting so far. After Paille-Roy-Stafford came Vanek-Connolly-Pominville. They were not together at the morning skate (Vanek was with Moore and Afinogenov). Probably a good move to separate Hecht and Pominville. Other lines are Afinogenov-Moore-Hecht and Peters-Gaustad-Kaleta.
12:43 left: The Sabres have killed off a Hecht penalty and now have a power play of their own as Chris Neil is off for interference. Would be huge to get a quick two-goal lead.
10:30 left: So much for that idea. The Sabres hardly had the puck during those two minutes. Brutal. That's 1 for the last 11 on the power play.
8:09 left: Tellqvist has had no issues so far. Shots are 9-4 for the Senators and the best chance was a quick wrist shot by Nick Foligno that Tellqvist smothered in his chest after losing his stick behind the net.
4:28 left: We haven't had the usual commercial break nonsense we get at most arenas. In one break, there was a standing ovation for Ottawa junior coaching legend Brian Kilrea, who has been in these parts for 32 years and got a 20-page tribute section in today's Ottawa Sun. In this break, we got a couple of Irish music fiddlers. Nice change from the heavey metal garbage.
3:58 left: Looks like Pominville took his meltdown Saturday to heart. He makes the steal at the blueline, feeds Vanek and then gets a return pass, pumping it into the empty net to make it 2-0.
38.1 left: Tallinder off for hooking Heatley at the blueline. Yeah, it was a hook but it was hardly like it had any impact on what Heatley was doing.
End of the 1st: Shots are 13-6 for the Sens but Buffalo has the 2-0 lead. Tellqvist solid, not many clear shots, Pominville back among the living. Can't ask for much more.
taggedSabres game day