Brian Flynn evened the score late and Matt Moulson scored the lone shootout goal as the Buffalo Sabres beat Ottawa 5-4 to complete a sweep of their four-game homestand Monday at First Niagara Center. The win was Buffalo’s sixth in a row at home, matching their longest home winning streak since February 2007.
Buffalo’s chances were dwindling after giving up the lead early in the third period. Ten minutes into the third, the Sabres were trailing 4-3 and being outshot 11-3 after entering the period with a one-goal lead and outshooting the Senators 19-15 through the first two periods.
But the Sabres would regain control, outshooting Ottawa 10-3 the rest of the way. Their efforts paid off with 3:29 remaining, when Brian Flynn was in the right place at the right time for a rebound to tie the score and eventually force overtime.
“I just kinda got off to the side a little bit where I don’t know if anybody saw me,” said Flynn. “But a shot from the point, kind of lucky, just found my stick and I was able to put it in the open net.”
After a scoreless overtime period in which Jhonas Enroth made four saves, the Sabres goaltender continued his remarkable performance in shootouts this season. After Moulson scored on the Sabres’ first attempt, Enroth stopped all three Ottawa shooters to secure the win for Buffalo. He is now 4-0 in shootouts this season and has stopped 17 of 18 attempts.
Moulson’s game-winner in the shootout was his second of the night; he first scored in the midst of a second-period onslaught that saw Buffalo find the back of the net three times in a span of 3:21.
Trailing 1-0, Rasmus Ristolainen tapped in a one-timer from Brian Gionta on the power play less than five minutes into the period. Moulson deflected a shot from the blue line less than three minutes later, and then Marcus Foligno scored on pass from Flynn 32 seconds later.
“I just hung on to it, hung on to it, and tried to wait for [Gionta] or Marcus and find a little lane, kinda fortunate that puck got through to him,” Flynn said of Foligno’s goal. “That was one of the nicer goals we scored this year.”
Three unanswered goals by the Senators – one towards the end of the second period from Mark Stone and two more from Curtis Lazar and Alex Chiasson to begin the third -- temporarily put the momentum back in Ottawa’s favor, but the Sabres would never relent.
“Yeah, we responded,” Flynn said. “Guys stayed pretty positive on the bench helping each other out and I thought we created own energy.”
COMING FROM BEHIND
Buffalo entered the contest having not won a game all season after trailing at the end of the first period, sporting a record of 0-11 in such scenarios. On Monday, they exited the opening period trailing 1-0 despite holding a 9-6 shot advantage.
That period, the Sabres had garnered a number of attempts in front of the net to no avail. Cody Hodgson drilled a shot off the post early and Chris Stewart later batted a puck from mid-air into the back of the net that was later called back for a high stick.
In the past, those misses may have left the team feeling down and out.
“We haven’t had that feeling in a long time and I don’t expect it coming back anytime soon,” Moulson said. “I think we’re a completely different team than we were. Our attitude’s different, we know things are gonna go bad sometimes and you have to fight through it.”
The Sabres responded quickly with their three quick goals in the second and again late in third after they lost control of their lead.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after the gamethat the variety of scorers – four different Sabres scored in regulation tonight – is a reason for their newfound ability to comeback.
“We’re starting to get contributions from everyone,” Nolan said. “On any given shift somebody can get one for us.”
THREE FOR FOLIGNO
Foligno’s goal in the second period was his third in as many games, both the longest streak of his career and the longest for the Sabres this season. This goal was different, however, in that Foligno had been switched to a line with Gionta and Flynn after center Torrey Mitchell sustained a lower body injury in the first period.
Foligno also tallied an assist on Flynn’s game-tying goal.
“It’s been good to go to the net, that’s the biggest thing for myself,” Foligno said.“It’s just to work harder for the players that are with me on the ice and I’ve been obviously getting some good passes and I think the whole team is just complementing each other very well, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing with.”
Nolan has seen Foligno’s work ethic pay off in his versatility.
“Marcus has really taken his profession to a certain level,” Nolan said.“He’s staying out extra after practice, he’s taking some shots, I mean for a young player just feeling comfortable on the left side and all of a sudden you put him at center ice and he feels just as comfortable as that … he’s really comfortable in his skin right now and he’s feeling good about himself.”
Mitchell returned to the ice after sustaining a lower body injury in the first period, but ultimately decided that the injury was enough to keep him out for the remainder of the game. Nolan said Mitchell’s status is questionable for Tuesday night’s game in Winnipeg against the Jets.
“He didn’t look too, too good so I’ll be speaking with [General Manager Tim Murray] here shortly about whether he can go tomorrow,” Nolan said.
Before leaving for Winnipeg, the Sabres announced that forward Mikhail Grigorenko was being recalled from Rochester.
Also questionable for Winnipeg is defenseman Josh Gorges, who skated Monday morning but did not play against the Senators. But how close was he to suiting up against Ottawa?
“Real close,” Nolan said.