Mike Condon solid again in Senators shootout victory over Sabres
Sabres' William Carrier (48) is stopped by Senators goalie Mike Condon during first period NHL action in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP Photo)
Give the game puck to Mike Condon.
The Ottawa Senators back-up goaltender stole a 2-1 victory from the Buffalo Sabres thanks to a superb overtime and shootout. In the process, the Senators came home with a split in their two-game trip which began in Nashville.
The Senators are now 4-0 in overtime and shootouts, while the Sabres dropped to 0-3 in that situation.
Condon was here, there and everywhere during the five-minute, three-on-three session, as the Sabres outshot the Senators 8-0 and caught a couple of good breaks around the net. The Sabres owned the puck for 3:17 of the extra session.
In the shootout, Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan beat Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner, while only Sam Reinhart beat Condon.
“It’s always good getting shots, staying fresh (in overtime),” said Condon, who caught a break when a Zemgus Girgensons deflection bounced this way and that way, off the crossbar and off the post. “It was just the hockey gods right there, not going across the line. Very luck there. A good hockey bounce.”
During regulation, Ryan Dzingel and Nick Baptiste exchanged goals.
Both Lehner and Condon had positive feelings before this one.
Last Saturday, Lehner stole a victory from the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre, stopping 32 shots in a 2-1 victory.
Condon was fresh from a 27-save shutout in his Senators debut last Thursday, a 1-0 victory over Vancouver.
In keeping with that, both goaltenders were sharp throughout. The Senators outshot the Sabres 29-24 in regulation.
After a slow start, the Senators tied the game 1-1 on a superb individual effort by Ryan Dzingel at the 7:15 mark of the second.
Dzingel took a Derick Brassard pass at his own blueline, sped through the neutral zone and backed up the Sabres defence.
He then split the tandem of Rasmus Ristolainen and Dmitry Kulikov before tucking the puck past Lehner on the shortside.
It was the kind of highlight-type goal that Connor McDavid has made famous.
The bonus for the Senators is that Brassard picked up an assist, his first point in six games.
“Usually, I try to go wide, but there was a big enough gap (between the defencemen), so I tried it and it worked out,” Dzingel said. “Just put my head down and tried to fly through the gap and it worked out.”
Dzingel credited Condon for playing a major role in helping the Senators pick up four out of a possible four points since arriving in a trade from Pittsburgh.
“Two great games,” said Dzingel. “This one and last one, he has been playing awesome, coming in and making his presence known like he has. Hats off to him.”
The Dzingel goal gave the Senators life as they carried the play for a long stretch.
As strong as the period was, the Senators were in perfect position to take a lead late in the period, handed a 5-on-3 manpower advantage for 1:24.
They did little with the opportunity — Lehner made fairly routine stops off Mike Hoffman and Turris — setting up the third-period finish.
Given the tight-checking nature of the Senators’ system, it’s pivotal that the Senators produce with the man advantage. They entered the game ranked 24th in the league on the power play.
The Sabres broke the ice way back at the 2:49 mark of the first, when Baptiste ripped a shot past Condon following a faceoff win deep in the Senators zone.
It was the first goal allowed by Condon in a Senators uniform and it was the second NHL goal for Baptiste, a third-round Sabres pick in 2013, who grew up in Barrhaven.
The low-scoring game shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
Scoring — or lack, thereof — was a major concern for both teams heading into the game.
The Senators, who flew into Buffalo early in the morning following Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat to Nashville, had scored only five goals in their previous four games. For the season, the Senators had 30 goals in 12 games — a 2.42 average which ranked 23rd in the NHL.
The Senators were anxious to get back on the ice, putting behind them what coach Guy Boucher described as their worst effort among the club’s opening dozen games.
In his mind, it was mostly about the players’ mindset, losing their focus as a defence-first squad after falling behind early and being thwarted by strong goaltending.
While Boucher kept together the top line of Ryan, Brassard and Mark Stone, he juggled elsewhere.
Dzingel moved up to play with Turris and Zack Smith, while Mike Hoffman – who had a weak game in Nashville – was bumped down to play with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Tom Pyatt.
The Sabres, missing top flight offensive stars Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly, were coming off a 4-0 defeat to Boston on Monday.
They had only scored 25 goals in 12 games and they went into the game on a scoreless drought of 71:38, dating back to Saturday’s win against the Senators.
Baptiste ended that streak quickly, beating Condon between the legs. One-time Senator Derek Grant and former Senators farmhand Cole Schneider also picked up assists, making the goal an all ex-Ottawa marker.
BLUNDEN MAKES SENS DEBUT
BUFFALO – Welcome home, Michael Blunden.
The 29-year-old power winger who grew up in Ottawa’s east end, made his debut in the Senators lineup Wednesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
Blunden, recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League, replaced Chris Neil, who suffered an “upper body” injury during Tuesday’s 3-1 loss in Nashville.
By joining the Senators, Blunden has now played for 11 teams, dating back to the beginning of his professional career in 2005-06.
In 124 previous NHL games with Chicago, Columbus, Montreal and Tampa Bay, he has scored seven goals and added six assists.
Senators coach Guy Boucher says he wanted a physical player to take Neil’s spot against the Sabres and Blunden has earned compliments for a solid start with Binghamton. He’s tied for second in team scoring with three goals and one assist in nine games.
Blunden’s stay with Ottawa could be short-lived. While there was no update on the extent of Neil’s injury, Boucher had said Wednesday morning that he may not need to use Blunden.
The Senators could have opted to recall Curtis Lazar, who has been used as both a centre and right wing during his career in Ottawa.
Lazar, assigned to Binghamton after missing all of training camp due to mono, has scored two goals in nine games in the AHL.