If the Sabres' exhibitions are a precursor to the regular season, fans who leave early are going to miss the big finish.
After allowing the winning goal with 4.6 seconds left in the 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Monday, Buffalo went to overtime Tuesday against Ottawa. Jake McCabe sent the faithful home happy, scoring with 1:32 gone in the extra session to deliver a 3-2 victory in KeyBank Center.
Tying it late: The Sabres pulled into a 2-2 tie with 4:41 to play thanks to quality work from the three forwards on the ice. Hudson Fasching spun away from a defender behind the net to keep the puck before passing to Nicholas Baptiste. The winger quickly fired across the crease to center Derek Grant for a tap-in.
Lehner starts well: Goaltender Robin Lehner was the Sabres' star, making 37 saves as Ottawa outshot the Sabres, 39-32. Lehner kept Buffalo within a goal midway through the third period when he dived across the crease to glove a blast by Kyle Turris. Lehner made 16 stops in the first period.
Baptiste keeps going: Baptiste, who had a hat trick during the prospect challenge, pulled Buffalo into a 1-1 tie with 1:04 to play in the second. Baptiste drove the net and just needed to get his stick on a cross-ice pass from Grant.
Sens open scoring: Longtime Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil is still going at age 37, and he opened his 15th season in the NHL with a preseason goal. He did it without even looking late in the second period. Neil was jockeying for position in front with Buffalo defenseman Mac Bennett when Chris Kelly’s shot from the boards struck Neil and caromed past Lehner.
Another bounce: The Sens took a 2-1 lead with 25 seconds gone in the third period when a pass from the boards hit a body in front and caromed to wide-open Derick Brassard at the side of the net.
Agitating early: Hard-hitting Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers got under the Senators’ skin early in the second. Neil took exception to Deslauriers’ hit on a teammate in the corner and jostled with the Sabres forward after the whistle. When play resumed, Ottawa’s Dion Phaneuf slashed Deslauriers and picked up an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he argued with the referee.
Back to back: The Sabres dressed three players for the second consecutive night. Center Zemgus Girgensons and defensemen Erik Burgdoerfer and Brady Austin faced the Senators after skating at Penn State against the Wild. Girgensons, who scored Buffalo’s lone goal Monday, centered the top line for Ennis and right wing Kyle Okposo.
Lettermen: With captain Brian Gionta out of the lineup, the Sabres went with three alternate captains. Kyle Okposo, Zach Bogosian and Girgensons wore the A’s. Josh Gorges and Marcus Foligno were the alternates during the Sabres’ preseason opener Monday.
Concern for MacArthur: The Senators have opened the year with troubling news. Forward Clarke MacArthur, who spent his first six years in the Sabres’ organization, suffered yet another concussion after getting hit by teammate Patrick Sieloff on Sunday. It’s at least the third head injury for MacArthur, who missed all but four games last season with a concussion and sat out a month in 2014-15 after a collision with then-teammate Lehner.
“We're heartbroken here,” Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion told Ottawa reporters. “He's had a history. We held him out last year, even though he was cleared, to make sure that he'd be OK for this camp. … It's a human being, it's his life, and that should be the biggest and foremost priority.”
The Senators who have watched the 31-year-old struggle with the brain injuries and battle back are crushed by the latest one.
“When you see that happen, it's tough to even stand here and talk about it,” Phaneuf said.
Remembering Richie: The Sabres held a moment of silence prior to the game for former defenseman Richie Dunn, who died last week in Clarence at age 59. Dunn spent 10 seasons in the Sabres’ organization during the 1970s and ‘80s.
Counting the house: The Sabres sold 17,868 tickets for the game, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,000 people didn't use them.
Next: The Sabres will practice Wednesday in KeyBank Center before playing another set of back-to-back games. Buffalo and Toronto will meet Thursday night in Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont. The same teams will play again Friday night in Buffalo.