Leclaire impresses but Sens drop opener
Spezza sits out opener
Scotiabank Place, Kanata, Ont.
Pascal Leclaire (OTT) — 34 saves
Ryan Miller (BUF ) — 25 saves
Derek Roy (BUF) — 2 goals
Derek Roy scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period Friday to give the Buffalo Sabres a 2-1 road victory over the Ottawa Senators in the season opener for both clubs.
The Ottawa-born Roy scored on the power play as the Senators got bunched up near the blue-line. Roy skated down the left side and just past the Ottawa net, at which point he sent the puck off goalie Pascal Leclaire's pad and into the net.
The result spoiled a terrific effort from Leclaire, who finished with 34 saves. Leclaire stopped Roy on a short-handed breakaway in the first and stretched his pad to deny a strong scoring opportunity from Rob Niedermayer in the second.
The Senators will return to action Saturday in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada (CBC-TV, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
"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."
Ottawa centre Jason Spezza, hobbled by a groin injury, did not play in the opener.
In a second period in which Ottawa was outshot 16-3, Chris Kelly tied the score in the final minute. Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu did effective work near the boards to set up the goal.
Roy started the scoring by stickhandling around Chris Phillips in the first and swooping near the crease to beat Leclaire. Buffalo rookie Tyler Ennis assisted on both Roy goals.
Buffalo took successive penalties in the final three minutes, but even with Leclaire on the bench and veteran defender Sergei Gonchar the quarterback, the Senators could not equalize. Captain Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev each had hard shots denied by Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
"We played pretty good in the third and we pushed hard. It was our best period," said 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."
The Senators buzzed around Miller not long after the opening puck drop, but Buffalo came back up ice, with Thomas Vanek wiring a slapper that rang off the bar.
Sabres veteran Mike Grier had a chance to make it 2-0 with Leclaire lying on the ice, but couldn't lift the puck.
Mike Fisher had one of the best scoring chances for the home team in the first, but the opportunities dried up in the second, Ottawa's cause wasn't helped by taking four of the game's first five penalties, although they killed each of them off.
Kelly's goal at 19:11 of the second arose after Buffalo defenceman Jordan Leopold couldn't handle the puck at Ottawa's blue-line.
Neil outfought Leopold for the loose puck near centre ice, with Ruutu taking possession and heading down the right side before feeding Kelly in the slot.
"It was all them," Kelly said of his linemates. "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."
Ottawa came out in the third with better energy but it was Buffalo who would score early into a power play that resulted from Chris Campoli's cross-checking penalty.
Just seconds after the Roy goal, Kovalev skated in alone but missed the net.
The late power-play misses left the Senators 0-for-5 on the game.
Ottawa is now 8-4-6 all-time in season openers.
With files from The Canadian Press