If you looked at the first two periods it’s pretty obvious that the Sabres didn’t deserve to win this game. They were outhit, outplayed, and only Ryan Miller’s goaltending kept this from a blowout. Lindy Ruff denied Miller a bit of rest, and Miller responded by making 40 saves behind a tired team.
Once Vanek takes that puck to the face it was all over. Any energy the team had left with Vanek racing off the ice holding his face. From then on it was the Sabres letting their old demons get to them. Why can’t the Sabres look past this Senators team the way they do against Toronto? You can argue that Ottawa is much worse, but Buffalo still struggles with the shell of a team that beat them in the playoffs two years ago. The only thing that remains of that team are the uniform colors, but it seems that Buffalo just can’t look beyond the past.
Going into the third period you knew there was a chance for comeback, but it would take a pretty big individual effort. The Ellis line was working well again, but they’re not going to be the scoring threat every night. With the Sabres’ big gun missing, someone would have to step up.
Enter Tim Connolly.
He didn’t score a goal tonight, but there wasn’t much that he didn’t do in that third period. He made everything happen on the Mair goal, stripping the defenseman and finding Mair open in front. He intercepts a breakaway pass and draws a penalty, giving the Sabres the power play that would tie the game. This wasn’t the kind of monster game we see from guys like Vanek, but Connolly did the little things to get this game tied up. Even in the shootout, with the game on his stick Connolly kept things going with a nice goal.
Miller didn’t get it done in the shootout, but can you really ask for more from him last night? The team sleepwalked through two periods and came out of this with a point. Five out of six after a west coast road trip, and they’ve made up some ground on the teams ahead of them.
Montreal lost again last night, Florida did as well, and the Penguins lost this afternoon. No ground lost, and a few points gained. That’s all you can ask for, I suppose.