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Lehner, Sabres earn long-awaited shootout win over Senators

Okposo leaves with injury; O'Regan makes debut

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

OTTAWA -  Ryan O'Reilly smiled and pointed toward Robin Lehner as he and the rest of the Buffalo Sabres gathered to embrace their goaltender, the celebration of a shootout redemption that had been a long time coming. 

Lehner struggled in shootouts last season, going 0-4 without a save. He lost a shootout on opening night of this season too, and the Sabres hadn't found themselves in the skills competition since until the final seconds of overtime dwindled off the clock in their game against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. 

The first shot, a wrister from Matt Duchene, beat Lehner between the pads. He stopped the next shot though, a pad save on Bobby Ryan, and then poked the puck away from former teammate Mike Hoffman as he swept across the net. 

Sam Reinhart and Jacob Josefson, the latter of whom came of Buffalo with a reputation for his shootout prowess (he was 11-for-22 in his career), both scored goals against Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson, earning a 4-3 win for the Sabres and giving Lehner the shootout victory he'd been waiting for.

"That's sometimes how it is," Lehner said. "Just like a goal scorer who hasn't scored in a while. You get your first one, you get your confidence back. It's nice. Hopefully I can build off that one in the future."

Video: Condensed Game: Sabres @ Senators

The Sabres twice erased one-goal deficits in the game. Sam Reinhart buried a rebound to tie the game at two goals apiece after some sloppy second-period play turned into a pair of goals for Senators forward Ryan Dzingel. Thomas Chabot scored to regain the lead for Ottawa with 2:30 remaining in the period.

Scott Wilson scored the tying goal just 27 seconds into the third, the product of a strong forecheck from O'Reilly and Reinhart. O'Reilly won a battle for the puck in one corner, then ended up with it again in the other before making a tape-to-tape pass to an oncoming Wilson.

"I think going into the third we were one shot away," Wilson said. "We made that clear to everyone that we need one, and we put ourselves in a good situation."

Video: BUF@OTT: Wilson nets quick goal to even game in 3rd

Following a lopsided loss to Calgary on Wednesday in which Housley felt his team was unprepared to begin the game, the Sabres outshot the Senators 15-12 in the first period and took an early lead on a goal from Marco Scandella, his fifth of the season. 

The goal was preceded by a defensive-zone takeaway from Nicholas Baptiste, who cut off an attempted breakout pass and took a shot from the slot. Senators defenseman Cody Ceci made an attempt to clear the puck form the net-front, but Scandella cut it off at the blue line and scored on a turn-around slap shot. 

"I just think our focus and the response we made tonight was a great response," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "After having a, I would say, poor effort in our own building, we travel, come out here and I liked the way we started.

"We were physical, you could see the determination in our players and I think from top to bottom everybody contributed tonight."

Video: BUF@OTT: Scandella rips home a laser to open scoring

Physicality and aggressiveness were qualities that Housley said had been lacking in that Calgary loss, and they were key ingredients to all three Sabre goals. 

"I think we got on them a little quicker," Reinhart said. "I think all over the ice, we kept things a little more simple. Especially off the back-to-back, mentally it's a little easier to stick with that."

Lehner made 37 in his first start since allowing four saves in a loss to Florida last Friday. Both he and the rest of the Sabres will look for this response to carry over to KeyBank Center, where they'll begin a six-game homestand on Saturday.

"We needed this one today," Lehner said. "It was a pretty fun game."


Okposo leaves with injury

Kyle Okposo sustained an upper-body injury during an open-ice collision with Senators forward Bobby Ryan early in the second and did not return. Housley said the forward will be evaluated in Buffalo on Friday. 

Okposo ranks third on the team with 38 points (11+27) in 65 games this season. The Sabres are already without their leading scorer in Jack Eichel, out since Feb. 11 with a high-ankle sprain, as well as fellow forwards Evan Rodrigues (week-to-week) and Kyle Criscuolo (out four to six weeks). 


O'Regan's debut

Daniel O'Regan, the forward acquired along with a pair of prospects in exchange for Evander Kane on Feb. 26, 
made his Sabres debut centering a line with Jordan Nolan and Baptiste. O'Regan skated 9:28, including 1:47 on the power play, and was part of the forecheck that led to Scandella's goal in the first period.


Up next

The Sabres return home on Saturday afternoon to host the Vegas Golden Knights for their first-ever visit to KeyBank Center. Looking to bring the family? Kids Day ticket packages are available and can be found here. Puck drop is scheduled for 1 p.m. 

Can't make it downtown? Coverage on MSG-B begins at 12:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night Pregame Show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. 

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