OTTAWA – They came away with a point, but the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t help but feel like they let another one slip away in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. They came away with more shots, after all, a few of which stood out as grade-A opportunities.
In the third period alone, Ryan O'Reilly had an open shot from the slot go wide, Jake McCabe saw a one-time pass go just out of his reach and Marcus Foligno had a one-time shot miss an open net. Finally, in the final seconds of overtime, Jack Eichel was stoned by Craig Anderson on a breakaway attempt.
Eichel had another chance to beat Anderson to begin the shootout, but he too went wide. Matt Moulson's attempt was also stopped, while Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris scored back-to-back for Ottawa to clinch the victory.
It might be unfair considering he earned the primary assist on Buffalo's lone goal of the game, scored by Moulson in the first period, but Eichel claimed responsibility for the loss afterward.
"We played great, we did a lot of good things and I think this one falls on me," he said. "I have a breakaway in overtime and if I want to be the player that I want to be, that's got to go in the back of the net."
The Sabres outshot the Senators 39-26. Even when they were outshot 7-4 in the third period they were blocking attempts (they blocked 22 on the night) and limiting quality chances. Ottawa's only goal in regulation came from Ryan Dzingel on a cross-ice feed from Patrick Wiercioch 7:10 into the first period.
"We did a good job of limiting opportunities, probably our best team game, defensive game in a long time and at the same time we had plenty of opportunities at the end to get an extra goal," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.
Robin Lehner, on the same ice where he sustained a season-ending concussion exactly one year ago, made 25 saves. The Sabres have now earned a point in three straight games, having entered Tuesday night on a two-game winning streak.
"I think we had a really strong game," Lehner said. "We're not happy that we lost but we've got to take the good things out of this game, we got a point on the road and we're creeping up. It was a good game."
DROUGHT ENDS FOR MOULSON
Based solely off of his reaction to Matt Moulson's first-period goal, you'd have thought Jack Eichel had scored himself. Eichel swung his fist through the air in celebration as he waited for an embrace from Moulson, who scored for the first time since Nov. 1.
Eichel has been living in the Moulson family household since the beginning of his rookie campaign. Dishing the pass to end Moulson's 44-game goalless drought was the least he could do.
"It's great to see him get rewarded," Eichel said. "I'm just happy he scored, you know it's been a while and he's been in a little bit of a slump and it seems like everyone's been jumping on him to give him a hard time. People go through things like this. He's been doing some great things."
Eichel dazzled twice on the goal-scoring possession, first when he weaved his way from wall-to-wall on the zone entry and then with the no-look, backhand pass from behind the goal line that set Moulson up with the scoring chance in the slot. Moulson put a backhand shot between Anderson's pads.
Moulson's celebration didn't quite reach the level of that of his teammates, but his coach called it a "massive" weight off the veteran's shoulders. Both Bylsma and Eichel have applauded the way he's handled his drought in practice and in the dressing room, and on Tuesday it finally paid off.
"I've put in a lot of work lately just trying to make sure I'm getting better each day," Moulson said.
The Sabres are back on the road to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night for the second of three matchups this season. The Sabres beat the Blue Jackets 4-2 for their first win of the season on Oct. 12.
Coverage on Friday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550. Marred