OTTAWA — There’s already a long list of players and teams that have rediscovered their game against the Buffalo Sabres. Craig Anderson became the latest Thursday night.
The beleaguered Ottawa goaltender stood tall in the face of a season-high 41 shots by the Sabres to give the Senators a 2-1 victory. Anderson spoiled the Sabres’ bid to win two in a row for only the second time this season and avenged his team’s loss Tuesday in Buffalo.
“Their goalie might have stolen one,” said Sabres forward Luke Adam, one of the many players robbed by Anderson. “You’ve got to give him credit for playing a good game.”
Anderson was a preseason hopeful to make the U.S. Olympic team, but he stumbled into the game with a 3.40 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. He’d allowed four or more goals in eight of his previous 12 starts.
He kept the Sabres at their usual total of one. They’ve hit the loneliest number in 11 of their 32 games, a big reason they are 7-23-2.
“He made a difference for them,” said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who made 30 saves. “He’s a good goaltender. He’s had a tough start to the season stat-wise, but I pay attention. He’s made his fair share of saves. He’s had his fair share of tough nights. It was a good night for him.”
The Sabres outshot an opponent for only the sixth time, but they fell to 1-5 in those games. Anderson stopped 17 shots in the third period.
“It’s frustrating,” said Sabres goal-scorer Tyler Ennis, who was dynamic with a team-high seven shots and while scoring for the third time in four games. “It would have been nice to get a few. It felt like one of those nights we could have had three, and Anderson played well.”
The only time the Sabres have won two in a row was Nov. 12-15 against Los Angeles and Toronto – the last game for fired coach Ron Rolston and the first game for Ted Nolan.
“This was our best effort we had so far,” Nolan said. “Everything was there except for the result.”
Bobby Ryan, an oft-coveted trade target for Buffalo, paced the Senators with a goal and assist. Zack Smith broke a 1-1 tie with 6:39 gone in the second, and Anderson did the rest.
Anderson stopped Drew Stafford on a breakaway with five minutes to play, and he made huge back-to-back stops early in the second. The goalie pushed a puck to a driving Ennis in front, but he made a spectacular glove save to cover up the mistake. Less than a minute later, Anderson found himself one-on-one with Adam at the top of the crease. The Sabres forward tried to go around Anderson, but the goalie stuck with it to make a pad save.
“We worked hard as a team, and you’ve got to keep your heads up,” Adam said. “Those opportunities are going to go in.”
The Sabres totaled 77 shots during the two games against the Senators.
“When you see guys doing the right things in the right place, they tend to start scoring,” Miller said. “Hopefully, they can carry some confidence. These were good games for us.”
John Scott’s game went from forgettable to miserable during the second period as the Senators took a 2-1 lead to the delight of the crowd, announced at an inflated 15,578.
The enforcer took his second penalty of the night, tripping Joe Corvo behind the Ottawa net with 4:30 gone. Though the Senators didn’t score on the power play, they did just after Scott left the box. His first penalty, goaltender interference, wiped out an apparent early goal by the Sabres.
Scott finished with four penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating in just 2:42 of ice time.
“It wasn’t necessarily the fourth line’s mistake,” Nolan said. “That plus/minus can be overrated sometimes.”
The Sabres will welcome Calgary to town for a rare afternoon game Saturday, with the puck set to drop at 2 p.m. The matchup features the two NHL teams in search of a general manager. The Flames fired Jay Feaster on Thursday.
“At least we’re getting those shots and we’re competing a little bit better,” Nolan said. “We’ve just got to get maybe a little more net presence for some of those shots, take away the eyes of the goaltender.”