Carter Hutton deserved better. The Buffalo Sabres got what they deserved.
It's a pretty simple way to boil down what happened Tuesday night in KeyBank Center as Hutton came within 56 seconds of a shutout and instead ended up with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames.
Matthew Tkachuk tied the game with 55.3 seconds left on a deflection after Elias Lindholm's shot first hit Rasmus Ristolainen. And Johnny Gaudreau capped a 2-on-1 break with defenseman Mark Giordano at 2:40 of OT to hand the Sabres their second straight loss in extra time.
It's wasted effort to point fingers at anyone on the OT goal. The Sabres lost this game long before that.
They were outshot, 38-29, in the game and gave up far too many good chances. They stayed afloat on Jack Eichel's first-period-goal and by killing all five power plays against them, with Hutton's work being a key.
Hutton was far and away the best player on the ice but wasn't much in a mood for plaudits. The tying goal, scored with the Calgary net empty, came after Vladimir Sobotka and Zemgus Girgensons failed to clear the puck out of the Buffalo zone.
"We didn't play very well. ... We had a one-goal lead and couldn't find a way to get it done," Hutton said. "Not too shocking when you don't get pucks out of your zone late. Teams make you pay."
"He played awesome and kept us in it, fought to the end," said Jason Pominville. "He deserves a lot of credit for this one for sure."
Hutton was sharp all night, making 16 saves in the second period. His best came in the first minute of that period, when he was downright larcenous on Lindholm by stretching to his right to stop the puck with the paddle of his stick.
"I just compete on pucks and I was able to get it," he said. "Always keep competing. It's obviously one where he has an open net. You don't want to give that chance up but I was able to get my stick on it and it stays out."
"I just feel bad for him," said coach Phil Housley. "He's really given us some solid goaltending. He's been asked to stand on his head and it's unfortunate."
Save of the year? 😱 pic.twitter.com/pozBs0TdT4
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 31, 2018
Hutton started the season strong, including a 43-save outing in a win over the New York Rangers, but had just an .877 save percentage over his last five starts. From the outside, this looked like a big step forward for Hutton. He didn't necessarily see it that way.
"I think I've been pretty good so far this year truthfully," he said. "You guys criticize me a lot on one or two goals. Even the games I lost on the 'Cali' trip, I still thought I was a big difference maker. You guys have your opinion, I have mine. That's all I can say."
There's no difference of opinion on the overtime goal. Not much Hutton could have done.
The play came with Eichel the lone man back after Ristolainen was caught up ice in the Calgary zone.
Flames defenseman Mark Giordano took Ristolainen out of the play and then sped up ice to go with Gaudreau. His pass found Gaudreau, who just got the puck ahead of Eichel and drove it into the empty net. A disgusted Eichel slammed his stick on the back of the goal as the Flames started their celebration.
Does it get any better than this?!
— 🎃 Calgary Flames 🎃 (@NHLFlames) October 31, 2018
"It's a good play by them," Eichel said flatly.
The Sabres blew their best chance to win when they didn't score on a power play to start OT after Vladimir Sobotka drew a tripping call on Tkachuk at the regulation buzzer.
There wasn't much zone time for the ensuing two minutes. Eichel had one good chance that he shot wide and the best opportunity was when Conor Sheary failed to tap home a Rasmus Dahlin feed to the edge of the crease.
"For sure on that we've got to score," Eichel said of the two minutes. "It's frustrating not to get one there. Not how you want to end a game at all."
"We obviously have to close games out," Hutton said. "We played with fire too many times and they made us pay tonight."