Quick Hits: Sabres at Senators

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For the final time before the All-Star Break, the Buffalo Sabres took the ice to face off against a divisional foe and they came to impress.

Buffalo started this game much better than their last game against the New York Rangers, so that alone was a sight to see. The Sabres came out with energy and were able to immediately create scoring chances in their offensive zone.

Unfortunately for Buffalo, the Senators were able to strike first.

Erik Karlsson was following up on a play, when he crashed a scrum in front of the Sabres net. Karlsson pushed a puck past Robin Lehner, for his 11th goal of the season. Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma almost immediately challenged the goal for potential goaltender interfence, but the referee confirmed the validity of the goal. Ottawa was up 1-0 after just 6:42 into the game.

Not to be outdone, Evander Kane would have a nice trick up his sleeve a few minutes later in the period.

Ottawa attempted to cycle the puck back into their defensive zone, when Kane slapped the puck away. The puck took a generous bounce behind Craig Anderson, and Kane was right on top of it.

Kane poked the puck towards Anderson and the puck deflected off Anderson’s lower body, into the net. Kane’s 11th goal of the season, at 11:12 of the first, tied the game at 1.

Ottawa would take the upper hand again, midway through the second period.

Bobby Ryan stationed in front of Sabres net, trying to screen Robin Lehner. A shot from the point created a weak rebound, and Ryan found himself in the right place at the right time. He retrieved the puck and pushed it behind Lehner. Ryan’s 18th goal of the season, at 10:03 of the second period, gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead.

Just minutes later, Jack Eichel dazzled us with his explosive stride once again. Eichel galloped down the right side of the ice, past a Senators defender. Eichel did not take a shot, but maintained a strong possession of the puck. As he curled around the goal, Eichel deposited the puck past Craig Anderson.

Eichel’s 15th goal of the season, at 13:48 of the second period, tied things up at 2.

When the third period rolled around, the Sabres grabbed momentum for the first time all game and would you be surprised to know that Jack Eichel was the man who did it?

The sequence began when a Zemgus Girgensons shot on goal could not be corralled by Craig Anderson. The shot popped behind Anderson, unbeknownst to any of the Senators surrounding the net. Jack Eichel knew exactly where the puck was.

Eichel grabbed the puck and ever so gracefully tapped it into the net. Talk about the right place at the right time. Eichel’s 2nd goal of the game, and 16th of the season, gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead at 1:08 of the third period.

As the game progressed, the Sabres regressed. It almost seems like this was a mirror image of so many other games this season. The Sabres crawled into a defensive shell, hellbent on protecting the lead and not actually furthering their lead.

Robin Lehner won the Sabres this game in the third period, more on that below. Ottawa appeared to tie the game as the clock expired, but thankfully the clock had hit double zeroes before the puck crossed the goal line.

With this victory, the Sabres snap a 6-game road losing streak to the Senators. The Sabres record improves to 20-26-4, which puts them 14th in the Eastern Conference with 44 points.

Now onto the quick hits!

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    • Lehner vs. Ottawa

For the first time since his offseason trade to the Buffalo Sabres, ex-Ottawa Senators goaltender Robin Lehner not only made his first start against his former team tonight, but he returned to the arena he called home for 5 seasons.

Lehner announced his return to the Canadian Tire Centre by recording his 2nd career assist, on Jack Eichel’s first goal of the evening. The return was a success!

All joking aside, Lehner stopped 34 of 36 Senators shots and was downright impressive this evening.

He also made more than a few spectacular saves in the third period, when Buffalo crawled back into their shell and decided to just protect the lead. Using shots-on-goal as a measuring stick, Ottawa outshot Buffalo 22-2 in the third period. Unreal.

Lehner’s 31st career win was his first with the Buffalo Sabres and his first win against his former franchise. It was also Lehner’s for first win since 2/14/15 vs. EDM. What a night!

    • A Milestone for Franson

Tonight’s matchup against Ottawa marks the 450th career game for Sabres defenseman Cody Franson.

Drafted in the 3rd round (79th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Level Draft, Franson has impressively played the 23rd most games out of the 230 players selected in the draft.

In tonight’s game, Franson played 15:16 and 1 shot, 3 blocks. Quiet night but a big milestone for Franson.

    • Eichel loves January

What can I say about Jack Eichel that hasn’t already been said? This guy has gotten better and better and better.

The month of January was very kind to Eichel. He tallied a career-high 5 goals and tied his career-best with 11 points in the month.

I’m sure Eichel will break the 5 goals and 11 point mark in the future, but damn man…Eichel is a treat to watch, we are so #blessed.

    • All-Star Break

Following this game, the Buffalo Sabres coast into the All-Star Break and it could not come a moment sooner.

Buffalo does not face someone again until they travel to Montreal on Wednesday, February 3rd and take on the Canadiens.

Hopefully when the Sabres return to the ice, they’ll have offensive reinforcements in the form of forward Sam Reinhart. The Sabres are a team badly in need of good news, especially with their recent rash of injuries and Reinhart being good to go against the Canadiens could just be that good news.

Ryan O’Reilly will be the only Sabres representative during the All-Star Weekend, so make sure you tune in for that! We’ll see you back after the 7-day break!

Written by Ryan Wolfe

Ryan Wolfe is the founder and editor-in-chief of BLTD Sports. He can be heard on the BLTD Podcast. Ryan's writing is also featured over at TheHockeyWriters.com.

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