March 18, 2006
by Brian Wheeler
The Buffalo Sabres could not recover from an out of sync first 40 minutes against the Ottawa Senators. Buffalo allowed three goals in the opening 28 minutes of play and were out shot 35-9 in the first and second periods combined, as the team witnessed its eight-game winning come to a close with a 4-2 loss to Ottawa on Saturday night.
"For 40 minutes collectively as a group, we had a lot of players that played poorly," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff.
"We knew they were going to come hard, but for the first half of the game, we definitely had too many passengers," said co-captain Daniel Briere.
Buffalo trailed Ottawa by a point in the Eastern Division standings entering the contest but fell to three points back with the team's first loss since March 1.
"That was one of the biggest games of the year and there are no excuses for not being ready and prepared," said Briere. "The way we jumped out on the ice, I don't know how to explain it. It's embarrassing."
"When you take the number of undisciplined penalties we took," commented Ruff on Buffalo's 24 minutes in penalties, "to allow them some of the momentum and opportunities that they had in the game, you don't have a chance of giving yourself the opportunity of winning that hockey game."
Rookie goaltender Ryan Miller
was the only shining star for Buffalo. Miller kept an outplayed team in the game with 45 saves and was given first star honors in spite of suffering his eighth loss of the season.
"I was happy to be there for the team," said Miller. "It was just a situation where we got off to a bit of penalty trouble from the start, and that makes it tough to get your feet going against this team."
"We got close to winning and he's the reason why," said Briere.
Buffalo fought to life with goals by Maxim Afinogenov midway through the second period and Briere in the third. The tally by Briere brought Buffalo to within a goal with just over ten minutes in the game.
"I thought this time, at least we would come out with a good showing," said Briere, who has scored eight goals and 10 assists in the Sabres last 10 games. "We never deserved to comeback in that game. We were close there in the third but we never deserved that win."
"We played a good third period," said Ruff. "We probably had five or six really good chances and had them on their heels. That was only because we decided to sit some guys and go with the players that were playing the best."
Rookie Thomas Vanek
was one of the individual who watched the third period. Ranking second on the team with 23 goals, Vanek logged just over eight minutes of ice time during the game. Only rookie center Paul Gaustad and enforcer Andrew Peters saw less playing time.
"Too many turnovers," explained Ruff of his reasoning behind Vanek's limited playing time. "It just came down to the guys that were going the hardest. We had a five-on-three where I didn't like the determination of the team and a three-on-one where we didn't even get a shot on goal.
"But it was a group effort. There aren't many guys that can stay on the bus. You can pretty well throw them all off the bus at different times."
Ottawa converted on a pair of rebounds to take a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.
With Buffalo yet to register a shot on goal, Peter Schaefer punched Bryan Smolinski's rebound from a bad angle low on the left wing into the shortside of the net to give Ottawa the early 1-0 lead at 8:57.
Then with a two man advantage for Ottawa, Miller robed Dany Heatley with a pad save but allowed a rebound to the front of the net where Zdeno Chara slipped the puck between the netminder's legs at 12:09.
Ottawa expanded its lead to three goals at 7:53 of the second. On a two-on-two rush, Schaefer slung an across-ice pass across the top of the crease to Smolinski for the easy redirect and Smolinski's 15th of the season.
Less than a minute later, Afinogenov cut the Senators lead to a pair. Receiving a pass from Derek Roy
at Ottawa's blueline, Afinogenov skated into the offensive zone and blasted a slapshot from the left faceoff circle into the short side of the net for his 18th goal of the season.
Midway through the third, the Sabres got to within a goal of Ottawa. On the power-play, Briere received a pass from Maxim Afinogenov at the left goal post and one-timed the feed over Emery's right pad for his 20th goal of the season at 9:31.
Chris Kelly tipped a rolling puck into the empty net to increase the Senators lead to a pair of goals and clinch the Ottawa victory at 19:47.
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0-1 (8:57): Peter Schaefer punched Bryan Smolinski's rebound from a bad angle low on the left wing into the shortside of the net to give Ottawa the early lead. Buffalo is yet to register a shot on goal. The goal is Schaefer's 18th of the season. Smolinski and Brian Pothier get the assists.
0-2 (12:09): With a two man advantage for Ottawa, Ryan Miller
robed Dany Heatley with his left pad but allowed a rebound to the front of the net where Zdeno Chara slipped the puck between the netminder's legs. The goal is Chara's 13th of the season. Heatley and Jason Spezza get the assists. Period 2
0-3 (7:53): On the rush, Peter Schaefer slung an across-ice pass across the top of the crease to Bryan Smolinski for the easy redirect and a three-goal Ottawa lead. The goal is Smolinski's 15th of the season. Schaefer and Chris Neil get the helpers.
1-3 (8:39): Receiving a pass from Derek Roy
at Ottawa's blueline, Maxim Afinogenov skated into the zone and blasts a slapshot from the left faceoff circle into the short side of the net. The goal is Afinogenov's 18th of the season. Roy gets the lone helper. Period 3
2-3 (9:31): On the power-play, Daniel Briere receives a pass from Maxim Afinogenov at the left post and one-times the puck over Emery's right pad. The goal is Briere's 20th of the season. Afinogenov gets the primary assist, while Chris Drury receives the secondary.
2-4 (19:47): Chris Kelly tipped a rolling puck into the empty net to increase the Senators lead to a pair of goals and clinched the Ottawa victory. The unassisted goal is Kelly's seventh of the season.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.