Forsberg helps Senators scorch Sabres
Ottawa (14-18-0) closes out the calendar year sitting last in the Eastern Conference, but is hopeful to gain some momentum from a game that featured solid goaltending with a 45-save performance from Anton Forsberg and some depth scoring from its third and fourth lines.
“I think we came out good,” said coach Jacques Martin. “I think our mindset was the right one tonight. I thought that we competed much harder right from the start and I thought we had good puck control.
"We had some giveaways, but I think, you know, we addressed it in-between periods but overall, our mindset was much better for this game than last game.”
The last game being an ugly 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Forsberg credited his teammates for much of his success Sunday saying they kept the Sabres to the outside and allowed him to have a clear vantage point.
“If we play the right way we shouldn’t have to bounce back as often as we do,” said Forsberg. “We’ve got to bring it every night and that’s something we’ve got to find as a group otherwise it’s hard to be successful.”
Zack MacEwen and Mark Kastelic each scored their first goals of the season, while Dominik Kubalik, Jakob Chychrun and Artem Zub also scored. Thomas Chabot, who returned after missing 12 games with a leg injury, had two assists.
Like the Senators, the Sabres are trying to work their way up in the standings and have been disappointed with the results so far this season.
“We’re going to figure it out,” said Buffalo’s Connor Clifton. “Obviously, this would’ve been a big win for our group. We’ve got to find a way to grind and claw back to .500 and then we can start doing damage.
"Obviously, the goals thing, they’re going to come. I hope it’s going to be next game, you know, with all the chances we’re getting. Like I said, the goalie over there played really well tonight and we couldn’t put it behind him.”
The Senators got the early lead and never really looked back.
Ottawa opened the scoring with Chychrun’s power-play goal at 6:51 when he one-timed it past Levi for his 200th career point.
With his first of the season, McEwen gave the Senators a 2-0 lead, but the Sabres cut the lead in half with Thompson’s goal with just 13 seconds remaining in the period.
The Sabres peppered Forsberg in the second period outshooting the Senators 19-5, but Ottawa managed to capitalize on two of its five shots.
“I felt like I shot 50 shots today and nothing really happened,” said Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin. “That’s how hockey is. You’ve just got to work; you can’t do anything about it. You have to get back to work and you have to get better.
" … Our effort is always there, we just have to be smarter sometimes.”
Ridly Greig deked past Dahlin and dished a pass over to Kubalik, who got a piece of the bouncing puck to put it past Levi.
With 15 seconds remaining in the period, Erik Brannstrom — who played as a forward Sunday — looked to make a pass and Kastelic, with his first of the season, tipped it to make it 4-1.
Martin broke the news to Brannstrom in the morning that he would be playing forward and was happy with the defenceman’s effort.
“With having seven D (defencemen) I felt that he’s a great skater,” said Martin. “He’s got some good offensive skill. He never played forward and I think it was a bit of a shock this morning when I talked to him about it, but I felt he could help our hockey team.
"Sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice when you make the team a priority and in the long run it helps you. The more versatile you are the better player you’re going to be and I thought he did a great job.”
Talking to reporters after the game, Brannstrom didn’t come across as being impressed with the new assignment but made the best of the situation.
“It was different,” admitted Brannstrom. “I mean, I did the best I could, so it was fun.”
Martin said it was a bit of an experiment, but didn’t rule out doing it again.
Parker Kelly thought he had made it 5-1, but after video review the Senators were ruled offside. With 4:44 remaining Zub made it 5-1 with an empty-net goal.
Jacques Martin coached his 1,300th NHL game on Sunday.
The Senators remain without Mathieu Joseph (lower body) and Rourke Chartier (upper body). … Sabres coach Don Granato missed his second straight game due to an illness. Seth Appert, coach of Buffalo's American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., filled in again.
Senators: Play the Canucks in Vancouver Tuesday.
Sabres: Play in Montreal on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2023.