Greetings from HSBC Arena, where the folks have to be wondering if this is the night the Sabres get off their ugly schneid against the Ottawa Senators. Lots of great numbers in this one: The Sens have won nine straight and are looking to tie their franchise record of six straight road wins set to close the 2002-03 season (good research by the AP's John Wawrow). The Sabres are 9-0-3 in their last 12 at home.
I was, frankly, hoping for more chatter between the two teams before this one. I was bored. The Senators came in today and went with the "we have confidence against everyone" line. OK, so they've won nine straight overall but we know they think they're in the Sabres' heads. The Sabres gave it the "it's an important game but they all are" stuff yesterday. Derek Roy did seem to indicate he was sick of losing to his hometown team and Lindy Ruff seemed to crack a little this morning too.
But enough of the political correctness. I'll say it. Big, big game for early February. Sabres will still have two games in hand when the night's over but seven points with two in hand is a whole lot different than three. We'll see.
16:00 left: Tidying up some print edition issues but Sens still lead, 1-0. Also was getting an explanation on the video review in the first period. According to Sabres VP Mike Gilbert, the war room in Toronto did get an overhead look at the play from an analog camera that is no fed into the TV broadcast. There is also an HD camera which is fed into the broadcast but that camera is not operational. Gilbert emphatically pointed out the camera is the property of the NHL and the Sabres have been requesting the league fix it for quite a while. Wonder if that will happen now.
14:01 left: Spezza fires one over Miller's left arm -- almost from the goal line to make it 2-0. Big trouble now.
12:48 left: Vanek robbed in front by Elliott and driven rudely into the boards by -- who else -- Ruutu. Responds with a good right cross.
12:43 left: Finally some life as Sekera cuts in front and beats Elliott with a wrist shot.
12:16 left: Jeez. Connolly snaps one home to make it 2-2. Just like that. Vanek's punch woke everybody up?
11:46 left: Spezza gone for hooking Grier. Uncle Mo in Buffalo's favor now.
10:10 left: Miller robs Kelly on a breakaway. Buffalo has been horribly sloppy with the puck the entire power play. Third time an Ottawa player had a chance to get away and this time Kelly did.
7:46 left: Elliott robs Myers after great Connolly feed and Miller battles a Spezza floater a few seconds later. Shots are 13-11 for Ottawa in this period, 33-32 for Buffalo in the game.
59.7 left: Ouch. Alfredsson gives the Sens the lead in the final minute taking a great pass from Erik Karlsson. Kicks the puck to his stick, has an empty net. Killer. Almost not fair on one hand. On the other hand, can the Sabres do something in one minute and really deserve a point for it against this team? Would be nice if the Sabres could stop stars. The Sedins. Crosby. Now Spezza and Alfredsson.
22.5 left: Alfredsson into the empty net. 4-2. The streak continues against Ottawa.
It's over: 4-2 loss. Eight in a row. Final shots were 38-36 for Ottawa and 19-14 in the third.
To start: The Pominville penalty is announced and the teams will play seven seconds of 4-on-4. Then Ottawa goes on the PP for 1:53.
18:10 left: Miller's best save of the night comes off Ryan Shannon, and he then corrals the bouncing rebound in the crease.
17:45 left: Old nemesis Jarkko Ruutu goes for elbowing Pominville.
15:52 left: Disastrous power play ends with Connolly losing the puck at Sens line to Milan Michalek and then dragging him down for holding. Michalek keeps going, Sekera backs in too much and Michalek fires one off the post. Yeesh.
13:00 left: Miller makes another nice save on Michalek. Shots are 5-3 for Ottawa in this period; already same number of shots Sens had in the first. After four days off produced a sluggish first, there's noticeably more life from the visitors in this one.
9:21 left: More than halfway home. No scoring. In the last 7 1/2 periods at HSBC, we've seen a total of six goals between the Sabres and their opponents.
8:35 left: Miller stops Chris Neil from in front. Sens have doubled the shots on Buffalo in this period, 8-4.
6:22 left: Spezza puts the Sens up 1-0 with a wicked snapshot over Miller's left shoulder. Lydman lost the puck in the Ottawa zone (should have shot instead of passed) and Spezza outskated a desperate Mair the other way. Rivet backed in and Spezza fired. His seventh straight game with a goal (although it spans an in jury so the NHL only acknowledges five).
5:05 left: Shots are 11-5 for the Sens in the second. They have the lead. The dread in the building is palpable.
3:20 left: Now there's life. Phillips drills Miller behind the net and somebody better go after him, right? Myers does the honors and gets a big hand. What was Phillips thinking there? Matt Carkner grabbed Myers too. He's lucky he didn't get something. Phillips got four (goalie interference and roughing), Myers got two (roughing). Sabres better file that one away and get some retribution on Elliott. Miller, of course, is their whole season.
End-2nd: 1-0 for the Sens. 14-9 in shots for Ottawa in 2nd (22-19 for Buffalo through two). Sens 20-1-0 leading after two. Not good news (Buffalo 5-15-2 trailing after two).
14:00 left: A whistle anyone? Almost none. Sabres have the game's first four shots on goal and the best hit, by Sekera on Chris Kelly. Didn't like Vanek going offside on a 3-on-2 on his line's first shift though.
13:23 left: Finally, our second stop. Tonight's lines have looked like this: Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, Stafford-Roy-Vanek, Mair-Kennedy-Ellis and MacArthur-Gaustad-Grier. Defense pairs are Tallinder-Myers followed by two changes, Butler-Sekera and Rivet-Lydman.
9:51 left: Sabres have a 7-2 edge in shots and just had the best chance as Hecht's shot rolled behind Elliott and dribbled near the goal line before Chris Phillips swept it away. CLOSE REVIEW: No goal. Where was the overhead shot? We never saw it. Assume folks in Toronto saw that one.
8:04 left: Shots are 9-2 and Sabres are dominating but Ellis draws a silly tripping penalty behind the Ottawa net. We see this stuff all the time against the Sens. Momentum killer.
3:02 left: Great save by Elliott on MacArthur from the doorstep.
2:26 left: Mair goes for roughing. Seemed to throw a minipunch in retaliation to a Volchenkov hit. Can't do that.
1:53 left: Jason Spezza kills that power play by tripping Roy in full view of the whole building right by the puck. And actually carped about it.
1:05 left: Great save by Elliott on a backhand from Roy, who's moving great in the 4-on-4 situation.
End-1st: Zip-zip. Shots are 13-5 for Buffalo. Just as the buzzer went, Pominville gets knocked down by the boards and his stick hits Kelly in the face. They whistled him for high sticking but no announcement yet.
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