Senators goalie Craig Anderson knew there was no room for error with the way Buffalo’s Ryan Miller was stopping everything directed his way at the other end of the ice.
It took nearly all three periods for one to falter in a stellar goaltending matchup, which Anderson won by stopping 35 shots in Ottawa’s season-opening 1-0 win on Friday night.
Erik Karlsson scored the lone goal, sneaking a one-timer in under Miller’s legs with 1:35 remaining – and after Miller had stopped the first 45 shots directed his way.
”When you watch the guy at the other end make big save after big save, it gives you a little fire to kind of return the favor,” said Anderson, who earned his 23rd career shutout.
”It’s one of those battles where you enjoy to be in it, but at the end of the day, you like the win on the other side of it.”
Just ask Miller.
”It’s not a fun way to lose,” Miller said. ”We need points where we can get them. And I needed to make one more save. It’s disappointing.”
The Sabres lost their home opener and dropped to 0-2, following a 2-1 loss at Detroit on Wednesday.
Former Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur set up the goal. Driving up the left wing, MacArthur slipped a pass through the middle to set up Karlsson alone in the right circle. Karlsson got just enough of the puck to direct it toward the net.
Karlsson’s goal came a half-minute after Anderson made a huge glove save at the other end, stopping rookie Zemgus Girgensons’ shot from the high slot.
The wait for their season to open – as well as their first goal – proved to be worth it for Senators coach Paul MacLean.
”Now we have that under our belt,” MacLean said. ”We were excited about going into tonight. I think we’re even more excited now that we got started.”
Ottawa improved to 8-2-4 when opening a season on the road, and 10-4-5-1 overall.
The Senators also won in opening a season for the first time since 1995 without former captain Daniel Alfredsson, who left Ottawa to sign with Detroit in free agency in July.
”Having someone here for 17 years, and has been the captain for the bulk of that time, you don’t just replace something like that,” MacLean said. ”It’s going to take time for that. But the leadership group that we do have here that’s left over … they’re going to put their own stamp on it.”
The Sabres are searching for their own identity after spending the past eight months turning over an aging roster. Buffalo’s lineup featured five rookies on Friday.
The Sabres generated chances, but still lacked finish – particularly on the power play. Buffalo went 0 for 4 with the man-advantage after going 0 for 7 against Detroit.
”We competed right until the end of the game,” forward Steve Ott said. ”Unfortunately, we were on the wrong end of it tonight.”
Credit both goalies, too, for putting on a clinic.
Miller was the busiest, and made the most acrobatic save in the waning seconds of the second period.
Senators newcomer Bobby Ryan faked a shot from the left boards and deftly slid a pass into the middle, where Jason Spezza redirected the puck toward the net. Miller anticipated the play and lunged out from his crease to make a diving glove save.
Anderson was sharp, too.
With 3:15 minutes left in the second period, he got across to stop Thomas Vanek’s one-timer from the left circle. Midway through the first period, Anderson stopped Brian Flynn’s initial shot from the right boards, and then got back in position to foil Mikhail Grigorenko’s backhand from in close.
NOTES: The Senators open with six straight road games, and won’t play their first game at Ottawa until Oct. 17 against New Jersey. … Sabres D Henrik Tallinder did not return during the third period after sustaining what coach Ron Rolston called an upper body injury. … With Alfredsson gone, Spezza made his debut as the team’s eighth captain. … The teams combined for 39 shots in the first period – the most since the Senators (19 shots) and Bruins (22) combined for 41 shots last April 2, according to STATS LLC.