The Ottawa Senators have experienced third-period woes a few times already this season, and coach Guy Boucher was thinking about that on Thursday as his club nearly gave up a three-goal lead.
Craig Anderson had to make 46 saves, 21 of them in the third period as Buffalo poured on the pressure, but the Senators were able to hold on to beat the Sabres 4-2 in the first meeting of a home-and-home series.
“In the third period I kind of had it in the back of my mind that if they did score early we would be fragile and that’s exactly how it was,” said Boucher.
“It was tough for us to sustain what we did for two periods, for three periods. It’s a confidence issue there, it’s an experience issue there, but at the end the guys pushed hard, Andy was outstanding.”
Ryan Dzingel, Dylan DeMelo, Colin White and Bobby Ryan, into an empty net, scored for the Senators (5-5-2), who got two assists apiece from Thomas Chabot and Mark Stone.
Jason Pominville, playing in his 1,000th NHL game, and Jeff Skinner had the goals for the Sabres (6-5-2) while Carter Hutton made 28 saves.
The Senators had built themselves a 3-0 lead heading into the third period thanks in part to two power-play goals. But two goals, including one on the power play, from the Sabres in the opening four minutes in the third made it tight until the end.
Pominville scored just 59 seconds in when he tipped a point shot from Jack Eichel past Anderson. Skinner then scored on the power play at 3:55 on a near identical goal as he tipped Rasmus Ristolainen’s point shot past the Senators goalie.
“Obviously we probably weren’t ready to start and we talked about staying out of the box, I know it’s part of the game, but the last couple of games we’ve taken too many penalties and kind of got ourselves behind the eight ball,” said Pominville.
“But that third period we were going. We were on our toes, we had some zone time and we had some scoring chances.”
Dzingel opened the scoring at 6:55 of the first with Ottawa’s first extra-strength goal. He got the puck alone at the side of the net and was stopped by Hutton but then jammed his own rebound under the Sabres netminder.
Buffalo came close to tying the game late in the period but the point shot from Ristolainen struck iron behind Anderson.
The Senators had 10 of the first 11 shots in the first but the Sabres then responded with the next 11-of-13 as the teams finished the first with 12 shots apiece.
“We came out of the gate strong and a couple of power plays helped as well. From a goalie’s stand point you have to make sure you’re ready for that next shot,” Anderson said of facing just one shot in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
In the second DeMelo gave the Senators a 2-0 lead as his point shot hit the end boards before bouncing off Hutton’s back and in 60 seconds into the period.
White then gave the Senators a 3-0 lead with a power-play goal at 14:47 as he had an empty net to shoot out from the slot after Hutton was knocked down in the crease after being bumped by Ristolainen.
The teams meet again in Buffalo for a Saturday matinee.
Notes: Erik Burgdoerfer and Mark Borowiecki were scratches for the Senators. Evan Rodrigues, Tage Thompson and Nathan Beaulieu were scratches for the SabresThe Senators played the 1,000th home game in franchise history.