OTTAWA – It took three tries but the Ottawa Senators finally got a win for rookie head coach Cory Clouston.
Mike Fisher, one of three Senators to beat Ryan Miller in the shootout, scored the deciding goal as Ottawa beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Saturday.
Ottawa’s Brian Elliott stopped just one of three shots he faced in the shootout but the fourth shot – a miss by Derek Roy – gave Clouston’s Senators the win.
“I just wanted to shake (Clouston’s) hand afterwards and say congratulations,” Elliott said. “It feels good.
“We had two hard-fought games and we were ahead at the end tonight and then came back and tied it. It makes it easier on me when the guy misses the last shot.”
Nick Foligno and Antoine Vermette scored during regulation for the Senators (18-25-8), who are now 2-5 this season in shootouts.
Adam Mair and Drew Stafford scored for the Sabres (28-20-6).
The Sabres also had to make do without their leading scorer, Thomas Vanek, who took a puck in the face early in the first period and immediately left the ice. He did not return.
The shot from Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov caused a laceration on Vanek’s jaw and he will be re-evaluated in Buffalo.
Two quick goals in the third period allowed to Sabres to erase a 2-0 deficit and send the game to overtime and the eventual shootout.
Tim Connolly did the work on the first goal keeping the puck in at the Senators blue-line before finding Mair all alone in front of Elliott. Mair just tipped Connolly’s pass for Buffalo’s first goal.
The Sabres then got their first power play of the game and Roy fed a pass to Stafford who split the Senators defence before putting a backhand past Elliott to tie the game at 7:25.
“It’s nice to get a win period, but to get it in the shootout is a bonus because we’ve struggled in them,” said Jason Spezza, who assisted on the game’s opening goal by Foligno. “To get Cory his first win, we’re really happy about it.
“We played with a little bit more confidence and we’re starting to believe in ourselves and it shows.”
After a scoreless and penalty-free first period, the Senators got the first power play of the game and the first goal of the game midway through the second period.
With Mair off for roughing, Foligno had a perfect tip on a point shot from Brenden Bell that beat Miller to give the Senators a 1-0 lead.
With less than three minutes to play in the period Vermette grabbed the loose puck in the Senators end following a turnover and decided to shoot on the ensuing 2-on-1 rather than pass. His shot beat Miller high but the goal was initially waved off and the play continued.
When there finally was a whistle, the play was reviewed and Vermette was credited with his seventh goal of the season.
“After playing last night (a 3-2 win over Montreal) I thought we played a real strong first period,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
“We made a big mistake late in the second that cost us a goal, but I thought we came out at the start of the third focused and ready to go at it again.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win and that’s all you can ask.”
Notes: Sabres F Maxim Afinogenov missed his 15th straight game Saturday with a groin injury while D Andrej Sekera (Ankle) and Henrik Tallinder (shoulder) have missed the past 11 and seven games respectively. …F Shaun Donovan missed his eighth straight game for the Senators with a lower body injury while D Alexandre Picard missed his third straight with an injury to his hand and wrist. …Both teams are off until Wednesday when they will complete the home-and-home series at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo.