OTTAWA – At home, the Buffalo Sabres have been sharp for the last six weeks in going 9-2 and beating several of the top teams in the NHL. They haven’t come close to translating that kind of play when they leave First Niagara Center.
The Sabres produced one decent period and two poor ones Monday in Canadian Tire Centre and got what they deserved. The final analysis was a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators in a game that was tied and there for the taking through 40 minutes.
The Sabres did nothing to grab it. The Senators took it.
Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan broke a 2-2 tie by completing a hat trick at 3:06 of the third, former Buffalo winger Clarke MacArthur added insurance with 8:06 left and Colin Greening was credited with an empty-netter when pulled down by Nikita Zadorov with 1.1 seconds to go.
The Sabres were outshot, 9-2, in the third period as Zemgus Girgensons had both shots and no one else managed one. The count for the game was 35-21 and only the nightly supply of great saves by Jhonas Enroth kept this one tight.
“It was a soft night,” said coach Ted Nolan, who gave his team a small out when noting the dressing room’s continued flu battle. “In front of our own net, we didn’t hit anybody, didn’t make it tough on their players at all. When you don’t make it tough, it’s an easy game. Especially for skill players like Ryan.”
The Sabres are 0-5-1 in their last six road games and just 4-12-1 for the season. Only hapless Edmonton (2-10-5) has fewer road wins, with the Sabres and Oilers tied for the fewest road points in the league at nine.
The Sabres’ power play continued to be a momentum killer, going 0 for 4 and pushing its NHL-worst road ledger to 3 for 43 on the season. The Sabres had just three shots on goal in the four chances, only one shot with David Legwand off for hooking midway through the second period with Buffalo looking to push into a 3-1 lead.
“Our power play didn’t generate again,” said Tyler Ennis. “It didn’t give us any momentum.”
“The power play just has to show up to these games,” said Girgensons, who scored his 11th goal of the season at 8:37 of the second to put Buffalo up, 2-1. “We just didn’t get the job done, myself included. We’re not shooting the puck, we’re making bad decisions, not collectively working together.”
Ryan, who has 10 goals on the season, posted his first hat trick since Jan. 12, 2011 while playing with Anaheim. He had not scored in his previous five games and, in fact, didn’t have a multi-goal game this season.
Ryan opened the scoring by banging his own rebound past Enroth at 18:24 of a first period that ended with Buffalo only down, 1-0, despite getting outshot, 16-8. He pulled Ottawa even, 2-2, with 1:19 left in the second and then took a brilliant pass from defenseman Erik Karlsson to sweep the eventual game-winner past Enroth.
The score triggered a hat shower from the crowd of 18,284 in Canadian Tire Centre.
“Some guys you just don’t pokecheck at all against. Karlsson is one of those guys,” Nolan said. “You go fishing with him, you’re going to end up exactly what happened.”
The Sabres clearly missed the injured Tyler Myers and flu-ridden Rasmus Ristolainen in helping to keep lanes open in front of Enroth. Josh Gorges and Andre Benoit both were minus-3 in the game, as were Nicolas Deslauriers and Brian Flynn.
Deslauriers struggled much of the night with giveaways, including on Ryan’s hat trick goal, and was beaten to the spot by MacArthur just to the left of Enroth on Ottawa’s fourth tally.
One of the few bright spots for Buffalo was the play of defenseman Mark Pysyk, who was plus-2 in the game and pulled the Sabres even with a goal at 1:53 of the second period.
Playing just his third game of the season, Pysyk made a nice rush into the Ottawa zone and stayed with the play as Chris Stewart battled for the puck in front.
Pysyk snuck behind the net, popped out to the right of Craig Anderson and slashed the loose puck home for his first goal since the infamous “ButtGoal” overtime tally that beat Phoenix in First Niagara Center last Dec. 23.
“I just saw the puck kind of bouncing, went up and grabbed it,” Pysyk said.
“I came down the side, tried to shoot it off the far pad to get a rebound. Lucky enough it came right back to me on the far side.”
The Sabres lost forward Patrick Kaleta with 16:01 left as he slid feet-first into the boards after a move toward the Ottawa net.
Kaleta left the ice putting little weight on his right leg but Nolan said Kaleta could be available when the Sabres host Tampa Wednesday night in their final game of 2014.