Despite a third period rally that saw the Buffalo Sabres erase a 2-0 deficit in the final 10 minutes of their last game before the NHL's Winter Olympic break, the Ottawa Senators benefited from a late goal by Milan Michalek to defeat the Sabres 3-2 on Thursday, Feb. 6.
While the first period went without any scoring, the Ottawa Senators got on the board first with a goal by defenseman Erik Karlsson 3:12 into the second period. After taking a pass from Stephane Da Costa, Karlsson snapped a wrist shot the top of the far side of the right faceoff circle that beat Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth to give the Senators a 1-0 lead.
The Senators would take a 2-0 lead merely 10 seconds into the third period on a goal by Milan Michalek. Right after the faceoff to start the final frame, Jason Spezza cut through two Sabres into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 rush after a pass from Mika Zibanejad. Spezza then skated into the right faceoff circle and sent a pass to Michalek, who was skating toward the net into the left circle with Jamie McBain as the lone Sabre back on defense. Michalek then one-timed a wrist shot that beat Enroth to give the Senators a two goal lead.
The Sabres almost got on the board a little over six minutes later as a shot by Tyler Ennis hit both goal posts but stayed out of the net, keeping the score at 2-0 in favor of the Senators.
Ennis would eventually get redemption though, getting the Sabres on the board a few minutes later. After Senators goalie Craig Anderson made a save on Ennis, Drew Stafford collected a rebound and tried a wrap-around attempt to the left of the Senators net. Stafford would fall as he came around the left side of the net, and the puck kicked out to the bottom of the left faceoff circle to Ennis. Ennis then quickly snapped a shot into the top of the net before Anderson could into position, cutting the score to 2-1 with 9:35 remaining in the third period.
Drew Stafford tied the game for the Sabres a little over five minutes later with his sixth goal in the last seven games. Christian Ehrhoff snapped a quick shot from the left half-wall that Craig Anderson stopped, but Stafford was camped on his door step and cashed in on a rebound chance to even the score at two apiece with 4:14 remaining in the third period.
Milan Michalek’s second goal of the game would however put the Senators up 3-2 with only 22 seconds remaining. After taking a pass in the neutral zone from Jason Spezza, Senators forward Chris Neil took the puck into the offensive zone along the right wing before passing it back to Spezza at the blue line. Spezza then skated into the top of the slot before passing it to Michalek just inside the left faceoff circle. Michalek then snapped a shot from just above the left hash marks that saw its way past Jhonas Enroth and into the net to give the Senators a late one goal lead, and ultimately the victory.
Craig Anderson stopped 32 shots for the Senators, while Jhonas Enroth stopped 33 of the 36 Senators shots he faced in what ended up being a losing effort. With the loss, Enroth is now 1-12-5 this season, posting a .905 save percentage and a 2.89 goals against average while appearing in 20 games as the backup to Ryan Miller.
With the loss, the Sabres further secure their spot in the NHL’s basement with a 15-34-7 record and 38 points with 25 games remaining.
The Sabres will now have an 18 day break as the NHL suspends play for the Winter Olympics, with several of the league’s players taking part in the hockey tournament. The Sabres themselves have five participants, with Jhonas Enroth and Henrik Tallinder representing Sweden, Ryan Miller representing the United States, and Zemgus Girgensons representing Latvia. Interim coach Ted Nolan will also lend his services to Latvia, serving as their head coach.
After the Olympics, the Sabres will resume play on Tuesday, Feb. 25, when they will host the Carolina Hurricanes at the First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. Eastern.