OTTAWA – For one day at least, the goaltending issues in Ottawa have been solved.
Derek Roy scored twice as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Senators 2-1 on Friday night at Scotiabank Place in the season opener for both teams.
But the story of the game was the play of Ottawa netminder Pascal Leclaire, who despite the loss looked impressive making 34 saves to put to the team’s goaltending woes to rest for the time being.
Throughout training camp and pre-season both Leclaire and Brian Elliott faltered, leaving doubt as to which one, if either, would step up and take hold of the starting job.
“I felt good,”Leclaire said.“The first five minutes I had the nerves, but as things got going I felt comfortable. I got a lot of shots so it was easy to get into the game and it was a good start.
“But it will be better when we get our first win.”
At the other end of the ice Ryan Miller was solid for the Sabres as he stopped 25 of 26 shots.
Chris Kelly scored the only goal for the Senators.
The third period was definitely the best of the three for the Senators as they outshot the Sabres 14-7, but it was the Sabres who got the break they needed to grab the win.
“We played pretty good in the third and we pushed hard. It was our best period,”said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.“We were spread out and they used that. They had a lot of chances off the rush. We were back on our heels and didn’t really play with the puck that much in the first two periods.”
Leclaire couldn’t be faulted on the winning goal midway through the third period. He forced Roy to the outside, but the Sabres centre went behind the net and banked the puck off Leclaire’s skate for the goal.
The play started with a great rush by Tyler Myers. The sophomore defenceman stole the puck in his own end and brought it into the Senators’ zone before Tyler Ennis fed Roy for his second assist of the game.
The third period began tied 1-1 after Kelly redirected a perfect cross-crease pass from Jarkko Ruutu past Miller with less than a minute to play in the second. The play started with Chris Neil stealing the puck at the Senators’blue-line from defenceman Jordan Leopold.
“It was all them,”Kelly said of his linemates on the goal.“It was a great play by (Neil) to strip that guy and it was a great pass (Ruutu) made to me, and I just had to tap it in.
“If they can do that every night I’ll be happy.”
Miller wasn’t as happy with the play as the puck seemed to bounce on Leopold before Neil grabbed it.
“I swear to God they keep the pucks too cold sometimes,”Miller said.
“You see the white ice on them when they switch them up and you mix that with the wet ice and the puck is bouncing. One little hop and it comes back at us, but we didn’t get flustered and we got a solid finish and got the goal we needed.”
The Sabres dominated the period but were unable to beat Leclaire, even with two power-play opportunities.
The Sabres finished 1 for 5 with the man advantage while the Senators were held scoreless in their five opportunities.
Roy was able to get around Sens defencemen Chris Phillips and Erik Karlsson before backhanding a shot past Leclaire eight minutes into the first period.
Moments earlier Thomas Vanek beat Leclaire during a 2-on-1, but his shot rang off the far post.
Notes: The Senators are 8-4-6 all-time in season openers and 2-3-2 in season openers at home. . . The Sabres are 22-14-4 in season openers all-time and 7-8-0 when opening on the road. . . Senators defenceman Filip Kuba and forward Jason Spezza both missed the game because of injury. Kuba suffered a broken leg the first day of training camp and will be out another month. Spezza hurt his groin during practice Wednesday and is day-to-day. . . Sabres forward Jason Pominville played his 334th consecutive game Friday. He has played all 82 games during the past four seasons and has the fifth longest active streak.