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‘Disappointing’ First Period Leads to 6-2 Sabres Loss to Senators



Ottawa Senators Buffalo Sabres game recap

The Buffalo Sabres coughed up five first-period goals in their 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. It was a shocking start for a team on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs. Star goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was replaced by Devon Levi after the fourth goal, leaving the Sabres scratching their heads.

It was a disappointing effort after a good win on Sunday and some rest returning from the West Coast.

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The Senators started the scoring after a Boris Katchouk shot was deflected and sat on the Sabres’ goalline. Artem Zub crashed the net to make sure the puck crossed the line. Katchouk then recorded a goal of his own, when a spin-around shot from the boards found its way clear past Luukkonen and into the net.

After Drake Batherson made a move and scored while being left alone in front of Luukkonen, it felt like a goaltending switch or Buffalo timeout was in the works. The Finnish netminder remained in the crease for Buffalo until he surrendered a goal on a Jakob Chychrun slapshot.

Levi came into the game and made some impressive saves instantly before Brady Tkachuk tipped a puck through him on a nifty passing play at four-on-four. The five first-period goals were Ottawa’s most since 2004.

JJ Peterka started a much better second period for Buffalo by getting the Sabres on the scoreboard. Connor Clifton also scored in the period, but the Sabres couldn’t cut further into the deficit.

The Senators sealed the game in the third period with an empty net goal by Shane Pinto.

Impact Players

The Sabres were outmatched by the top line of the Senators, led by Shane Pinto. Pinto registered four points, and, along with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson, the line combined for eight points in the game.

Interestingly, the Sabres failed to match up well, given that they were at home and awarded the last change. Dylan Cozens has established himself as a quality shutdown center, but Jack Quinn replaced Jordan Greenway on his line to start the game.

Head coach Don Granato shifted Greenway back with Cozens in the second period, and the line had much better results.

The results suggest that Greenway is crucial to Cozens succeeding defensively, so we’ll see if Granato sticks with those two together or decides to deploy his lines differently.

The Difference

The difference in the outcome of Wednesday’s game was clear – the Sabres did not come out ready in the first period. Granato attributed lost puck battles as part of the reason, but the goaltending from Luukkonen was abysmal.

Luukkonen’s been the team’s most valuable player this season and the biggest reason for their turnaround. It’s tough to criticize him too much especially since sometimes, you don’t have it.

He was noticeably fighting the puck early and would probably like to have three of the four goals back. This kind of performance is an anomaly in a season where he’s kept the Sabres in games they shouldn’t have been in. Ultimately, his 3.16 goals saved below expected per Evolving-Hockey cost the team the game.

What’s Next

The Sabres continue their homestand Friday as they host the New Jersey Devils. It’s the first game of a back-to-back, so we can expect Luukkonen and Levi to split the next two games. The Devils are making a last-ditch effort to get into a playoff position, with two straight wins. After a couple of deadline trades they have a much improved new goaltending duo, Jake Allen and Kaapo Kahkonen.