[December 13, 2013]OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators were
moving forward — just not fast enough for their liking — in an attempt
to keep pace with the playoff spot holders in their conference.
A 40-save performance by goalie Craig Anderson and another clutch
goal from center Zack Smith gave them a bigger boost Thursday night.
Smith scored his team-leading third game winner of the season at
6:39 of the second period and Anderson stopped all 17 shots he faced
in the third as the Senators defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 at
Canadian Tire Centre.
The victory moved the Senators (13-14-6) to within three points of
the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently hold the last wild-card spot.
The Sabres (7-23-2) are dead last in the overall standings.
"It feels like the last few games we're getting a bit of traction
with (four) points in the last three games," said Smith, referring
to the Senators' 1-0-2 record the past week. "This is big for our
confidence and it keeps us in the race. We've had trouble putting a
few wins together. It's a learning curve. You have to come the next
day and know it's going to be hard. We're picking up on that right
Winger Bobby Ryan had the other Senators goal, while he also chipped
in with an assist for a two-point night. Center Kyle Turris also had
a pair of points, with two assists, for Ottawa.
Center Tyler Ennis scored for the Sabres, who have been trouble
generating any offense this season. Their 54 goals in 32 games is by
far the lowest total of any team in the league, and their average of
26 shots per game is second worst.
"It's frustrating, it felt like one of those nights you could have
had three or four (but) Anderson played well," said Ennis, whose
team had 36 shots against the Senators during a 2-1 victory Tuesday
in Buffalo. "Scoring goals is hard. The good thing is we're getting
chances. If we weren't getting chances, that would be disappointing.
It's odds. When you keep putting the puck at the net, good chances
are going to happen. Maybe next game we'll get five or six."
Smith, who has just five goals on the season, roofed a shot just
under the cross bar to break the deadlock.
Anderson took care of the rest, making a late-game breakaway save
off winger Drew Stafford to go with the breakaway stop he made on
center Steve Ott in the first.
"We battled to the very end," said Anderson, whose team killed off a
penalty to winger Milan Michalek with 2:03 to play in the third. "We
did the little things that created an opportunity for us to win that
game. We'll take the two points. We can be satisfied. We've got to
look forward and get ready for the next opponent."
That will be a tough test, as the Los Angeles Kings visit
Ottawa for an afternoon game Saturday.
The Sabres, meanwhile, will also try to build off a performance
they felt good about when they host the Calgary Flames Saturday.
"I think it was one of our better efforts, honestly," said
Miller, who made 30 saves. "They're going to be showing us a
little more after losing in our building. They had more energy,
more time to prepare (than the game in Buffalo, when the
Senators had played the night before). I thought we had the
energy, we had some jump, we were creating. We just couldn't
quite get it all to click."
Buffalo was 1-for-5 with the man advantage while the Ottawa
power play was 0-for-3.
Ryan opened the scoring with his team-leading 15th of the season
at 9:22 of the opening period. From the left wing,
offensive-zone faceoff circle, he sent a backhand pass through
the slot that failed to find the stick of winger Cory Conacher.
The puck was retrieved by Turris, who sent it back into the
middle, where Ryan was cruising between two Buffalo defenders.
He finished the bang-bang play by one-timing a shot into a
wide-open side of the Sabres cage.
Ennis tied the game a little more than eight minutes later with
the Sabres on a power play. From behind the net, he stepped out
to Anderson's left, then jammed a shot between the goalie's
skates for his seventh goal of the season.
NOTES: Sabres C Cody Hodgson missed his first game of the season
with a "lower-body injury" he sustained in Tuesday's game
against Ottawa. Hodgson is Buffalo's second-leading scorer, with
eight goals and 10 assists in 31 games. ... Senators D Joe Corvo
was playing the 700th game of his career. The 11th anniversary
of his first is Saturday, when Ottawa hosts his original team,
the Los Angeles Kings. "I remember it, I was playing against
Mario Lemieux," said Corvo. "I was in a little over my head."
... Senators D Jared Cowen served the first of a two-game
suspension he received for an illegal hit to the head of Sabres
W Zemgus Girgensons Tuesday. Senators D Marc Methot (flu) was
also unable to play, forcing the team to call up D Cody Ceci for
his first NHL game. Ceci, an Ottawa native, was the Senators'
first-round pick (15th overall) in the 2012 entry draft. ...
Sabres LW Matt Moulson is 3-for-3 in shootouts this season and
his career 63.2 percent success rate (12-for-19) leads all
active NHLers who have had at least three shootout chances.