OTTAWA - Through two periods Saturday night, the Buffalo Sabres weren't quite on their game, but their goaltender was. The Sabres ended up scoring twice in the third period to win the game, but it was the play of Robin Lehner that made the comeback possible.
Lehner made 32 saves, including a few jaw droppers as Buffalo defeated the Ottawa Senators 2-1 at Canadian Tire Centre. He's now 2-0-1 in four appearances against his former club with a .953 save percentage and a 1.41 goals-against average.
Video: Okposo, Reinhart lead Sabres in comeback win
"No matter who we played today, it was a win we needed," Lehner said. "We don't want to lose two in a row. I think we can learn a few things from this game, but they way we came out in the third after our first goal and the big PK we had, we can take some positives too."
Kyle Okposo scored 1:07 into the third to get the ball rolling and Sam Reinhart put home the winner a few minutes later. Both were keenly aware of Lehner's contributions.
"He was the one guy that, for the full 60 minutes, he gave it his all and was really a big reason why we won that game," Reinhart said.
Let's look at two of Lehner's bigger stops early on.
He made an unreal save on Jean-Gabriel Pageau with 5:06 remaining in the first. As Pageau cut into the middle of the ice, he put the puck on his backhand and tried to stretch around to beat Lehner - who came out to challenge the shot - on his stick side. However, Lehner reached back to his right, put the paddle down and stoned Pageau.
"He's a battler. Early in the season, you could see that his game was coming," Okposo said. "He made some really good stops and the last few games that he's played, he's just been battling for us and making big saves. He made so many huge saves tonight and his athleticism is really good. It's allowing him to make some of those saves."
You know what? Just watch it for yourself.
Video: BUF@OTT: Lehner denies Pageau with amazing stick save
Lehner realizes, however, that he probably didn't have to make such a spectacular save if he had made a better decision as Pageau was cutting in.
"The Pageau save, it's nice that I got it, but I put myself in that position," he said. "I got myself out of the crease and out of angle there. I was not as patient as I wanted to be, but fortunate it didn't go in."
Lehner then made another great stop on a 2-on-1 late in the second period. With Bobby Ryan bearing down with Mark Stone, he threw a pass to the right to Stone, who had pretty much the entire net to shoot at. Lehner pushed over to his left to make the pad save on Stone's one-timer.
Video: BUF@OTT: Lehner lunges to stop Stone's one-timer
Let's look at his night overall.
Video: BUF@OTT: Lehner dazzles in win vs. Senators
The final 20
Buffalo's play in the third period was a stark contrast to how they played a majority of the first two frames. They came out of the intermission with confidence and assertiveness and that led to the quick goal by Okposo.
"It started with the first shift of the third period and the tone was set by those guys jumping over the boards," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was a completely different last 20 than the first 40 for our group. The tone was set with that first shift which led into that first goal."
The Sabres sustained pressure in the Ottawa zone and were able to partially complete a line change during the sequence. A point shot by Jake McCabe deflected in off Okposo's leg to put Buffalo within one.
Video: BUF@OTT: Okposo nets nice deflection past Anderson
Reinhart's goal 8:22 into the third was the result of a second and third-chance effort in and around the net. Once again, strong work from the five-man unit led to the positive result.
Video: BUF@OTT: Reinhart gives Sabres the lead in the 3rd
The big kill
With 10:14 to play, the Sabres penalty killers were heavily leaned upon when Dmitry Kulikov was charged with a four-minute double minor for a high stick that clipped Bobby Ryan and drew blood.
The Buffalo units consisting of Ryan O'Reilly, Derek Grant, Brian Gionta, Johan Larsson, Marcus Foligno, Josh Gorges, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe and Cody Franson cleared the puck - by Brian Duff's count - 11 times.
The penalty killers were also looking for some redemption after Ottawa opened the scoring on the power play 2:42 into the second period on a goal by Mike Hoffman.
The Sabres will take advantage of an extra hour of sleep as they clear customs and head to Boston. They're scheduled to practice in Beantown on Sunday and prepare for a game on Monday against the Bruins at TD Garden at 7 p.m. It'll be the third of five-straight games against divisional opponents for Buffalo.