OTTAWA -- The job of winning on opening night is officially easier for the Sabres because their longtime nemesis won't play. The teams have just taken the ice for the pregame warm-ups, and Jason Spezza will sit for the Senators with a groin pull.
Gotta admit, it still catches me a little off-guard when the Sabres skate out in the old-school white jerseys. They really are permanent, eh? About time.
Speaking of time, I guess I really have spent a lot of time in Ottawa during the nine seasons covering the Sabres. After having a few sodas Thursday night while watching Tim Lincecum start the Giants on the road to a World Series championship, I walked over to one of my favorite late-night/early morning eating joints. It's 1 a.m. on a Thursday, and the dude behind the counter shouts, "Hi, John!"
Yup, I don't live here, but I get acknowledged like Norm walking into Cheers. Pretty cool, I must admit. So thanks to the "Garlic Corner" for some fine shawarmas through the years -- and see you sometime late at night Jan. 24.
Because of opening-night festivities, opening faceoff in Scotiabank Place tonight won't be until 7:44 p.m.
7:33 p.m.: Here are a few notes while waiting for the festivities, including the anthems by Lyndon Slewidge, to begin. The Sabres are 21-14-4 in season openers. Buffalo's .590 winning percentage is seventh in the NHL. They are 6-8 when opening on the road, which they haven't done since a 3-2 shootout win in Carolina on Oct. 4, 2006.
7:38 p.m.: The Sens are introduced to the fans, with captain Daniel Alfredsson getting the loudest ovation, as expected. The second-biggest roar was for Chris Neil. Spezza, introduced in a suit, got a big ovation, too, after a summer in which he got trouble for being the town's whipping boy.
7:42 p.m.: The Canadian national anthem should ALWAYS be sung with the mix of English and French, like Slewidge does here.
7:45 p.m.: And the season is under way. Sens fans immediately start a mocking "Mill-er, Mill-er" chant -- and he responds with a pad save on Nick Foligno with 1:10 gone.
7:47 p.m.: Thomas Vanek gets a two-on-one with Steve Montador and rings a shot off the post with 1:59 gone.
7:51 p.m.: The Sabres' power play is 0 for 1 after Vanek can't tuck in the puck in front and Drew Stafford is stopped by Pascal Leclaire on a drive from the right side. The Sens wne to the box for too many men with 16:37 left. Tim Connolly got whacked in the face and got a look from athletic trainer Tim Macre but seems fine.
7:55 p.m.: Derek Roy gives the Sabres a 1-0 lead with 11:56 left, driving the net, dipping past Chris Phillips and putting a backhand over a prone Leclaire. Tyler Ennis and Shaone Morrisonn earned the assists, though it was all Roy with an individual drive from the right boards all the way to near the left circle.
7:59 p.m.: Rob Niedermayer and Mike Grier narrowly miss giving Buffalo a 2-0 lead with 10:41 to go. Jochen Hecht's pass finds Niedermayer alone in the slot, but Leclaire got his left toe on the shot. The rebound caromed to Grier, who shot the puck into the fallen goalie instead of the open net. It's 1-0 Buffalo with 9:56 to go.
8:05 p.m.: Sabres back on the power play with 7:25 left as Milan Michalek trips Drew Stafford.
8:09 p.m.: Leclaire thwarts Sabres' only chance on the power play, stopping Vanek's attempt after a cross-ice pass from Roy. The Sabres have a 12-6 edge in shots and a 1-0 lead with 4:27 to play.
8:12 p.m.: Jordan Leopold gets the Sabres' first penalty of the season with 4:06 left, tripping Chris Kelly after the Ottawa center took him down in the corner.
8:16 p.m.: The Sabres skate to the dressing for the first time in 2010-11 with a 1-0 lead. Goalie Ryan Miller helped the vaunted penalty-kill unit start 1 for 1 with a save on Sergei Gonchar's slap shot. Leclaire was then impressive at the other end with 45 seconds left. Roy stole the puck from Kelly near center ice for a breakaway, though he was tugged from behind along the way. Leclaire forced Roy to shoot wide. The Sabres hold a 13-9 edge in shots.
8:34 p.m.: Game on.
8:36 p.m.: Leclaire must have big toes because they came in handy again. He stopped Steve Montador's shot, then he got the end of his skate on Niedermayer's rebound attempt with 18:40 left.
8:43 p.m.: Mr. Carrie Underwood alleviates intense Sabres pressure by cross-checking Jason Pominville in front with 14:48 to go. Tim Connolly, Vanek, Pominville and Tyler Myers were swarming the Ottawa net area.
8:46 p.m.: The Sens kill Mike Fisher's penalty, and the teams head to commercial with 12:47 left with Sabres holding a 1-0 lead.
8:49 p.m.: Sabres back on the PP after Brian Lee interferes with Grier on a dump-in with 12:20 to go.
8:55 p.m.: Internet connection speed is suddenly slower than the Senators' offense -- and the Sabres' PP. They fail to connect again but hold a 1-0 lead with 8:36 to go. The Sabres have a 24-11 edge in shots, holding the Sens to just two so far this period.
9:01 p.m.: We hit the final commercial of the period with Buffalo still up, 1-0, and with a 26-11 edge on the shot counter. Neil tried to spark the Sens by baiting Craig Rivet into a fight, but the captain declined with the puck deep in Ottawa's zone. It's been there a lot.
9:05 p.m.: It's a whopping 36 minutes into the season, but the Sabres look like they may be a really frustrating team to play against.
9:10 p.m.: Neil sparks the Sens in another way during the final minute, allowing Ottawa to skate into the dressing room with a 1-1 tie despite getting just three shots in the period. Neil abused defenseman Jordan Leopold near center ice, outmuscling the puck away and getting it up to Jarkko Ruutu. Ruttu broke into the Sabres' zone and fed cross ice to Kelly for a tap-in with just 48.2 seconds left.
The Sabres have a 29-12 edge in shots.
9:27 p.m.: You probably could have figured this out on your own, but the Sabres are 0-0 this season when tied after two periods. Game on.
9:32 p.m.: The Senators get their second power play with 17:46 left after Montador slashes Nick Foligno.
9:39 p.m.: Teams are still tied at 1-1 with 13:32 remaining. The shots are 32-17.
9:45 p.m.: Chris Campoli's cross-checking penalty with 10:19 to go gives the Sabres' power play a fifth chance to make a difference.
9:47 p.m.: And Roy makes a difference, scoring with 9:48 to go. He corralled an Ennis pass with his skate, went behind the Ottawa net and banked the puck in off Leclaire. It's 2-1 Buffalo.
9:49 p.m.: Rivet heads to box for interference with 8:17 left.
9:54 p.m.: Sabres kill penalty, final commercial comes with 5:42 to go and Sabres holding 2-1 lead. Roy and Neil head to box after scrum in front.
10:05 p.m.: The Sabres killed a Drew Stafford elbowing penalty with 2:50 left, but the Senators have the goalie pulled with 46.0 seconds left and are coming off a timeout.
10:08 p.m.: Grier goes off for slashing with 20.0 seconds left.
10:09 p.m.: There's only 1.3 seconds left with a faceoff upcoming, so chalk up a 2-1 victory by the Sabres as I run downstairs