The redemption story was ready to be told. After Ryan O'Reilly scored into his own net to put the Buffalo Sabres down, he found Anaheim's net with 14.5 seconds left to tie it up. All that stood in the way of his feel-good tale was overtime.
As usual, that didn't feel good.
Overtime remained one of Buffalo's many Achilles' heels Tuesday. Poor passing and a bit of bad luck dropped the Sabres to 3-10 in overtimes with a 4-3 loss in KeyBank Center.
"It was definitely very nice to get that one," O'Reilly said of the tying goal, "but in OT the two points were there, and it's frustrating not to get them."
It was not the best overtime for Rasmus Ristolainen, who skated 32:39 to make up for an injury to Jake McCabe. First, Ristolainen badly missed a pass to a wide-open Jack Eichel, giving the Ducks the puck. Then, he got his stick on Adam Henrique's shot that eluded goaltender Robin Lehner with 1:36 gone in the extra session.
"They scored one more, so they won the game," said Ristolainen, who is aware of the key to a successful overtime. "Puck possession. Usually, the other team keeps the puck more, and you win overtime with the puck."
He gave the puck to the Ducks.
"Execution," Sabres coach Phil Housley lamented. "We did have possession of the puck, and we make a pass and it's not on the tape. The puck gets turned around, and they come and attack.
"It's just focus, bearing down at critical times. I think Rasmus didn't have a very good game overall, not just because of that pass. He wasn't making the usual tape-to-tape passes for him."
Of the Sabres' 10 overtime losses – tied with the Ducks for most in the NHL – only one has come in a shootout. So that's a league-worst nine times they've allowed the opponent to score at three-on-three.
"There's the opportunity to make a few plays, and I think we're just failing to make them," center Jack Eichel said. "I think that's been the tale of our season whether it's a breakout, a goal.
"It looks like execution, right? Opportunities to hold possession or make plays. I really can't pinpoint it. I feel there's been a lot of instances this year in overtime where we’ve either had some type of collapse defensively or made maybe not the smartest play with the puck, and it's trouble.
"You only have three guys out there and a goalie. You make a big-time mistake, it usually ends up in the back of your net."
Despite their seasonlong troubles, the Sabres actually entered overtime feeling good about their chances. O'Reilly helped them grab the momentum after inadvertently tossing it away.
After Lehner made a save to keep it 2-2, O'Reilly attempted to dump the rebound behind the net. Instead, he sent the puck into Lehner's stick, and it bounced into Buffalo's net with 8:30 to play.
"It's a stupid play by me," O'Reilly said. "I've got to maybe just go right to the corner. I saw a lot of guys on that side of the ice, and I was trying to go behind the net and take it out the other side. Stupid play.
"It's frustrating. We've got to spend time trying to catch back up. It's a lot of energy we didn't need to spend."
Still, the energy paid off. Lehner went to the bench for an extra attacker, and O'Reilly finished the six-on-five chance with a one-timer.
"It's a difficult place to be," Housley said of an own goal. "I've been there before, and you try to battle back mentally. It was a credit to him, it was a credit to our team that we applied some pressure."
They just didn't apply enough in overtime.
"It's an issue," O'Reilly said. "We want to be better in that area. We've been in that situation a lot, and it's not good enough."
Added Ristolainen: "Every loss is tough. We do this for a living."