OTTAWA -- The Buffalo Sabres tried to win a game here Thursday by playing for one period.
Now, it was admittedly one great period to give some life to Jason Pominville's 1,000th NHL game. But that's generally not going to be enough.
The Sabres outshot the Ottawa Senators, 23-7, over the final 20 minutes and outattempted them, 36-12. The puck stayed in the Ottawa end for long stretches and Sens goaltender Craig Anderson was under siege.
Buffalo got two goals in the first four minutes to cut a three-goal deficit to one and was all over the Sens for the next 15 1/2 minutes. But the tying goal never came.
In the end, an empty-net goal gave Ottawa a 4-2 win over Buffalo in Canadian Tire Centre -- and gave the Sabres plenty of food for thought for the teams' rematch Saturday afternoon in KeyBank Center.
"That third period I mean, man, we were going," said Pominville. "We were on our toes, had zone time, had scoring chances and probably could have tied the game. That should be our standard as a team."
"We turned it on and showed what kind of team we are," added goalie Carter Hutton. "It's a little too late but it's something we can definitely build on and build off of. ... It's a good lesson for our group to know that we've got to show up on time every night for the full 60."
The Sabres took two penalties in the first six minutes and five in the first two periods. Ottawa scored a pair of power-play goals to take a 3-0 lead and seemingly ruin Pominville's night.
The Sabres had surprised the 35-year-old by bringing his wife and two children into the dressing room prior to the game and there were numerous friends and family in the stands for the big night.
They didn't see much for two periods. Things changed quickly in the third as the Sabres were firing from everywhere and beating the Sens to the puck with impunity.
Pominville was stopped by Craig Anderson on a one-timer on the opening shift but then scored on a deflection of a Jack Eichel shot a few seconds later. Jeff Skinner scored at 3:55 and the race to the finish was on.
For the record, the opening tally was Pominville's 283rd goal and 707th point in the NHL. He has six goals and 11 points in 13 games this season.
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"It was a good moment," said linemate Jeff Skinner. "When you're down like that and not playing a very good game, you look for little sparks of energy and little things you can grab on to so you can build momentum. ... The fact it was in his 1,000th, everyone is aware of that. It's a nice moment for him.
"I was happy to get one in this game," said Pominville, whose goal puck was retrieved by defenseman Zach Bogosian. "It was just too bad we came up short."
The Senators, Buffalo's archrivals in the 2006 and 2007 playoffs, acknowledged Pominville's feat with a public address announcement and put him on the jumbotron to wave to fans of both teams who were cheering.
"Very respectful, very classy especially with the history we've had here," Pominville said. "I didn't really know what to expect but a very classy move by them."
Pominville had all five of his shots on goal in the third period and Skinner had two golden chances to tie the game but Anderson made the saves. Anderson stopped 46 of 48 shots in the game.
Sabres coach Phil Housley was discouraged by the start of the game, which saw the Senators collect nine of the first 10 shots on goal. It's the second straight game Buffalo has taken five penalties.
"We're not moving our feet to check," Housley said. "We're reaching and let's face it, we had to be a little bit more on toes. ... Guys are getting on the inside of us and we didn't lean on people in the D zone either. We weren't aggressive enough to kill their cycle play. Now we're chasing it and eventually we take penalties."
The Sabres will honor Pominville prior to Saturday's matinee. They announced after the game commemorative "Pominville Population 1,000" signs to the first 12,000 fans.
"That was awesome," Hutton said of Pominville's goal. "I think everyone was pumped to play in tonight's game. What an honor to suit up with him, a guy who has quietly had a great career here."