OTTAWA – Down two goals in the third period against the Ottawa Senators, the Buffalo Sabres battled back to tie the game. However, a late goal by Senators forward Milan Michalek put Ottawa ahead for good.
Michalek scored with 22.1 seconds left in regulation to give the Senators a 3-2 win at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday in Buffalo’s last game before the Olympic break.
Buffalo had rallied with two goals in the third thanks to the efforts of Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. Each had a goal and an assist in the game.
The Sabres had multiple opportunities in that third period to tie it up. Even when it looked like they were down and out in the final 15 seconds, they were able to generate a flurry of chances while on the power play as time expired.
“We battled hard. It’s really disappointing that we lost that one,” Ennis said. “We played hard, he battled hard and 20 seconds, it’s tough.”
Both Stafford and Ennis have been on hot streaks as of late.
Stafford has six goals and three assists in the last seven games he’s played in and Ennis has recorded five goals and eight assists in his last 14 games.
However, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan would like to see other players step up and contribute as well.
“Drew, he’s been really good for us or the last month or so and Tyler Ennis has been the same,” he said. “But you can’t win too many games when you have two or three players going good.”
Jhonas Enroth, who is heading to Sochi to represent Team Sweden at the Winter Games, started in net for the Sabres. He made 33 saves.
Erik Karlsson and Michalek, whom Ottawa is sending to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, scored for the Senators. Karlsson will play for Team Sweden while Michalek hopes to win gold with the Czech Republic. Craig Anderson turned aside 30 shots for the Senators.
The Sabres are winless in their past four games.
Michalek’s goal came as the result of a defensive breakdown by Buffalo that allowed Senators captain Jason Spezza to find Michalek on the rush for the game-winning goal.
“Every time, there’s that one moment where we have that lapse,” Nolan said. “The way we worked, you have to be proud of the way we battled. We fought back, but just another mistake.”
Karlsson put the Senators up 1-0 at the 3:12 mark of the second period. From the right halfway he fired a hard wrist shot into the top of the goal, knocking the cap off the water bottle resting on top of the netting.
With 15 goals, he’s tied with Nashville’s Shea Weber for the League-lead in goals by a defenseman.
Michalek scored his first of the game 10 seconds into the third. After winning the opening faceoff, the Senators started up ice. A pass up the boards hit the referee and Spezza was able to dish it in front of the net to Michalek, who one-timed the puck in for the goal.
Before he put one on the board, Ennis hit both posts on a backhand early on in the third that could have made it a one-goal game. The shot rang off the right post and parallel to the goal line where it then hit the left post and ricocheted out.
“I think I started to celebrate. I thought it was in,” Ennis said. “But you can’t get bounces, you have to keep working at it and we battled back from that and we scored two. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t grind it out and get at least one point.”
Ville Leino and Zenon Konopka made their returns to the lineup after serving the past two games as healthy scratches. They took the places of Linus Omark and Marcus Foligno.
Leino, who played with Ennis and Stafford, recorded an assist on Ennis’ goal.
Defenseman Tyler Myers missed his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury.
The Sabres now go on a two-week hiatus because of the Winter Olympics. They’ll be back in action on Feb. 25 against the Carolina Hurricanes at First Niagara Center. The game opens a three-game homestand for Buffalo.
Enroth, Henrik Tallinder, Ryan Miller, Zemgus Girgensons and Nolan are all headed to Sochi for the Games. Enroth and Tallinder will represent Team Sweden while Miller is vying to become the starting goaltender for Team USA. Girgensons will play for Latvia while Nolan will be coaching behind the team’s bench.
For the players not going overseas, it signifies a good opportunity to rest up and prepare for the rest of the season.
“It’d been nice to go into the break with a win, but now it’s time for the guys who aren’t going to the Olympics to rest up and continue to work out and stay in shape,” Ennis said. “We’ll turn this thing around after the break.”