On a night that the Ottawa Senators’ best forward took the League lead in goals, it was a pair of defensemen who combined for the decisive tally.
Off a pass from fellow blueliner Erik Karlsson, rookie Jared Cowen netted the winner 45 seconds into overtime Tuesday to complete a 3-2 Ottawa comeback against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center – the Sens' first win in seven matchups.
"I just went to the net and Karlsson saw me, a great pass and I just touched it in there," Cowen said of his third career goal and first game-winner. "When I was going down, I was thinking it was a gamble, wasn't sure if I should be there. Obviously it worked out."
Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots for Ottawa (14-13-4, 32 points), who in addition to the six-game skid against their Northeast Division rivals also snapped a three-game season losing skid. Milan Michalek added a goal – his League-leading 19th of the season – but later left the game after he collided with teammate Erik Karlsson. Sens coach Paul MacLean said Michalek would be re-evaluated when the team returns to Ottawa, where they face Boston on Wednesday.
"He's a big cog to our team," Spezza said. "He's a guy that works hard and makes a difference."
Goalie Ryan Miller matched a career high with 41 saves, but it wasn’t enough for the Sabres (15-12-3, 33 points), who dropped to 2-5-3 in their last 10 on home ice.
"I'm tired of could-haves," coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's how poorly we defended the first goal and how we defended that overtime goal."
Peter Regin tied it at 7:27 of the third period, when his long slap shot – his windup reached nearly to the Buffalo bench – from the right boards found its way past a heavily screened Miller. The goalie was frustrated with his team’s lack of continuity.
"It feels like it's a little bit between the ears and the guys need to get that trust," Miller said. "By the time you think through a situation, it's gone. Hockey moves too quick. You have to be in the flow and right in the mix of the game."
The game got off a torrid start, as a flurry of first-period goals gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. With just 69 seconds gone, Michalek opened the scoring when a flurry of shots drew Miller out of the goalmouth.
Spezza collected a rebound on his way behind the net and found a trailing Michalek, who was skating through the slot. Michalek easily one-timed it into the open net.
Buffalo leveled at 14:16 after two Senators defenders collided just in front of the crease and the puck fell to an onrushing Paul Szczechura, who deked right and finished off a backhand for his first goal since March 25, 2010.
Ninety seconds later, another Senator defensive breakdown opened the door for Buffalo to take the lead. As David Rundblad looked to skate the puck away from danger, Buffalo’s Derek Roy swiped it and dropped it back to Tyler Ennis. Ennis worked a give-and-go with Stafford, pushing it forward only to get it back, show the puck to Anderson then pull it back and finish high over the sprawling goalie.
Material from team and national media was used in this report.