In the end, four bounces were all that separated the Sabres from an overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at KeyBank Center on Wednesday night. A tight game had opened up in the extra period, and all eight of the shots that were taken came from the Sabres. The last of those shots came from Zemgus Girgensons from within the blue paint.
Girgensons' shot bounced off of Ottawa goaltender Mike Condon, off the bottom of the cross bar, back off the skate of Condon and ultimately off the post to stay out of the net. Overtime rolled into a shootout, where Sam Reinhart scored on the first attempt for Buffalo but Robin Lehner was beat on shots by Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan to secure a 2-1 win for the Senators.
"It's funny how puck luck works," Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe said after the game. "Hopefully one of these games a puck's gonna bounce our way, but we've got to keep doing these things and try and make our own luck."
The Sabres were able to generate several chances in that overtime period, but they only took 24 shots in regulation and ended up with their sixth performance of one goal or less this season. The only goal they did score came off the stick of Nicholas Baptiste 2:49 into the first period.
Baptiste played on a line with Derek Grant and Cole Schneider, the latter of whom was recalled for the first time this season prior to the game to replace an injured Ryan O'Reilly in the lineup. Grant won the draw, Schneider picked it up and immediately passed it back to Baptiste, who went far side with his shot.
Video: OTT@BUF: Baptiste opens scoring off faceoff
"It was a great play," Baptiste said. "I was able to get the shot off and beat him with the speed of the shot. I don't think [Condon] saw it very clearly."
Baptiste, Grant and Schneider were linemates during training camp in September, while Schneider and Baptiste played on a line together early this season in Rochester.
"We kind of read off each other pretty well and have that chemistry that we've built for the last little while," Baptiste said of Schneider. "He saw me coming in pretty hot there and put it on my tape."
Beyond that goal, however, Buffalo was unable to capitalize on its opportunities. Ryan Dzingel scored Ottawa's lone goal in regulation to tie the game 7:15 into the second when he carried the puck into the offensive zone, skated between defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Rasmus Ristolainen and scored on Lehner alone from in-tight.
Lehner took the loss against his former team despite only allowing one goal on 29 shots.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma attributed the limited offense in the game to a tendency by both teams to limit puck movement through the neutral zone. Forward Evander Kane, who played for the first time since a crash into boards left him with cracked ribs on opening night, thought the Sabres could be better in transition.
"I think overall we did have some chances, we did play in their zone, we did create some opportunities," Kane said. "At the end of the day we didn't score enough goals and we were pretty sloppy through the neutral zone. We've got to try to make plays through the neutral zone. When you have the puck on your stick instead of dumping it in it makes it a lot easier to create offense."
Kane skated 22:09 in his return to the lineup which, along with Wednesday's news that Jack Eichel was "progressing nicely" in his recovery from a high-ankle sprain, signaled that the Sabres were inching closer to health among their forward group. How that group looks when they return to the ice Friday remains to be seen, however, with O'Reilly day-to-day as he nurses an upper-body injury and Tyler Ennis out with a "middle-body" injury.
Buffalo returns to the ice for practice on Thursday before hosting the New Jersey Devils, who rank sixth in the NHL 2.25 goals-against per game, at KeyBank Center on Friday night. It's also Military Appreciation Night so check out details on the night including a special ticket offer for veterans and military personnel.
Firsts for Grant and Schneider
Grant and Schneider were teammates in the Senators organization, and both were able to get one back against their former team with assists on Baptiste's goal. It was the first point as a Sabre for Grant and the first of Schneider's NHL career.
Schneider, a Williamsville native, spent parts of five seasons as a top scorer for Ottawa's AHL affiliate in Binghamton, was acquired by Buffalo in a trade late last season. But he didn't receive his first career recall until he joined the Sabres for the final two games of year.
"Growing up, probably, that's how I would have pictured it," Schneider said of notching the point in front of family and friends in his hometown. "It's nice that it finally happened here."
With O'Reilly out, meanwhile, Grant became the Sabres' primary faceoff man and even took the ice as the centerman between Kane and Kyle Okposo in certain faceoff situations as the game progressed. He took a team-high 20 draws and won 14 (70 percent).
Perfect at home
The Sabres' penalty kill has dipped in the League rankings thanks in part to the three power-play goals they allowed in Boston on Monday, but they entered play on Wednesday as a perfect 8-for-8 on home ice. That number was extended with a 3-for-3 night against the Senators, including a key 5-on-3 kill with the game tied in the second period.
Buffalo's penalty kill is 18th overall in the NHL at 80.4 percent.
The Sabres begin a back-to-back, home-and-home set with the New Jersey Devils at KeyBank Center on Friday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with the TOPS Pregame on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.