Before the game, following a morning skate, Ottawa Senators coach D.J. Smith said to a group of media folks: “Things aren’t always going to go your way.”
Little did Smith know, a few hours after he spoke, things would slide sideways for his team. Again. In a rare 6:45 p.m. start, the Senators got taken down 6-4 by the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday at Canadian Tire Centre.
The Senators fought back from a 5-1 deficit, scoring three goals in the final 4 1/2 minutes, to scramble within a goal. Don’t be fooled by the score, though. It didn’t seem that close for a team that has lost two straight and is now 3-3.
There was much for the team’s fans – there were 14,278 on hand – to dislike, maybe even worry about, early in this NHL season.
An observation: Ottawa’s goalies – Anton Forsberg let five get past him before getting yanked after two periods – need to stop some pucks.
Observation No. 2: The Senators defence needs to get rid of opposing bodies in the crease area.
Looking uninspired, maybe tired at times, the Senators were outworked by the Sabres. There was some bad luck, some bad bounces. But the effort wasn’t enough on a night where there were too many passengers.
“There were a lot of guys that played hard to the end and gave us every opportunity to come back,” said Smith. “There are other guys that have to play harder.”
“As frustrating as it is, we have 76 games left,” said Senators winger Claude Giroux. “It’s not time to hit the panic button. It’s time to keep working on our game, find ways to be consistent for 60 minutes. If we do that, we’ll start winning hockey games … a bunch of them. We know what we’re capable of.”
The goaltending has been an issue in each of the past two games.
“Obviously, you want better tonight,” said Smith. “It was deflating (when the pucks) went in. But you have to look at it, are (the pucks) tipped, are they not tipped? The goalie can’t see what he can’t see. Forsy has been really good for us. Guys are going to have off games. He’ll bounce back.”
“They had a lot of tips and screens; we didn’t really help Forsy seeing the puck,” added Giroux.
The Sabres scored two goals on their first six shots in the first period.
Buffalo had a goal wiped out when it was determined Peyton Krebbs knocked the puck into the net with a high stick.
The Sabres scored a couple of minutes later when a Jeff Skinner wristshot beat Forsberg blocker side.
Forsberg then robbed Tage Thompson, a 47-goal scorer a year ago, who was left alone at the doorstep.
It was 2-0 with 8:40 left in the period, with Zemgus Girgensons scoring.
With a penalty carryover from the first period, the Sabres found themselves two men short for 37 seconds early in the second when Thompson took a hooking penalty. But there was nothing even close for the Senators.
The Sabres made it 3-0 when Skinner somehow banged in a shot off Forsberg from behind the goal line.
The Senators scored with 6:46 left in the second period. A Travis Hamonic blast went off the post and ricocheted to Jakob Chychrun, who fired it into the net.
The goal gave the Senators a boost and they had a long stretch in Buffalo’s end. But the Sabres made it 4-1 when a shot from the point was deflected in by Alex Tuch 17 seconds into a Hamonic holding penalty.
With 1:12 left in the period, Buffalo took a 5-1 lead on a goal by Thompson.
Ottawa made it 5-2 on a Vladimir Tarasenko goal with 4:25 left in the game.
Ottawa made it 5-3 on a Josh Norris power-play goal with 1:22 left. Then, 20 seconds later, Mathieu Joseph scored.
Drama? Ottawa got a power play with 34 seconds left. But an empty-net goal by Thompson closed it.
“Even down a few goals, we always have belief we can put them in in bunches,” said Chychrun. “It’s early. We have a lot of emotional guys that care a lot and want to win. It’s important to stay even keeled in these moments. We’re not going to win every single game, but we need to learn lessons from these nights where we don’t (play our best).”
The crowd was lifted to its feet when Senators captain Brady Tkachuk landed a punch that knocked Alex Tuch to the ice with a bit more than three minutes left. It might have been the Senators’ best shot of the night. Tkachuk was given an instigator penalty, which would mean a one-game suspension. But Smith said the team would appeal to the league. Said Smith: “I know what the rule’s for, at the end when you send guys out (to fight). I don’t see that situation at all. I see a guy that went out of his way to hit him dirty and he sticks up for himself.” … Fans booed the Ottawa power play, which didn’t generate too many good chances on a failed two-man advantage early in the second period … Quite a night in the NHL, with the second 16-game schedule of games in NHL history. With the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals up first at 6 p.m., there was a string of 12 games in 15-minute intervals, from 6:45-9:15 p.m. … Next up for the Senators is a Thursday road game vs. the New York Islanders … Jakob Chychrun, who’s in a couple of NFL fantasy pools, says Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen has been his best player … There were suggestions floating around that maybe Craig Anderson, who retired as a Senator Tuesday, should have postponed his retirement for one day and put on the pads … Chychrun used to have the same trainer as Anderson. “He lived in Florida in the off-season and I would train with him a bit,” said Chychrun. “He’s a great guy. It was nice being around him. I remember he used to drive around in a Ferrari and I thought that was really cool.” The fans gave “Andy” a really nice reception. A nice touch with Anderson dropping the puck and goalies Anton Forsberg and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen taking the faceoff. And, another nice ovation for Anderson when he was presented with an alumni jacket by Chris Phillips and Chris Neil near the midway point of the first period.
Recommended from Editorial