The Ottawa Senators finished with 11 more shots than the Buffalo Sabres, but Robin Lehner was perfect and turned away all 37 of the shots he faced, lifting the Sabres to a 4-0 shutout win.
Five observations from Saturday's win:
Locked in Lehner
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) February 5, 2017
Robin Lehner has stopped 79 of the last 81 shots he's faced. You're not going to lose many games when you get that kind of goaltending. On Saturday, Lehner faced 37 shots and stopped every single one of them to secure his first shutout of the season and fourth of his career.
"I feel like I'm getting in the grove and the team is helping me out with rebounds, too," Lehner said on the Sabres broadcast after the game.
Lehner's play, especially early, was a big reason why the Sabres had the lead after 40 minutes. All night he just seemed like he was locked in and wasn't getting beat. He made plenty of nice saves, controlled his rebounds and just looked comfortable between the pipes.
His prettiest save came late with an absolutely beautiful flash of the leather. In Buffalo's last two games Lehner has looked very sharp -- that's certainly a good sign for the Sabres.
Rachel and Monica
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart
On Saturday these two were on fire. They seemed to find each other at the perfect times and created countless Sabres chances.
Ridiculous skill alert!
Jack & Sam making it look easy. pic.twitter.com/DAYJMiMQff
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 5, 2017
It's not like this is something new, but on Thursday against the Rangers the duo was average, so this was definitely a nice bounceback performance.
"We just need to keep building on this," Eichel told reporters after the game. "[We] have to have a good practice tomorrow and go to New Jersey and take care of business."
Jack and Sam. Together forever pic.twitter.com/2OgRNSSN4R
— max marko (@MarkoTMMOTS) February 5, 2017
The Sabres need these two players to produce and on Saturday they did that and some.
Now that's how you start a hockey game. In the first period, the Sabres only scored one goal, but it realistically could've been 3-0 nothing after the first 20 minutes.
Jack Eichel came out of the gate flying and had one of the best shifts you'll see, aside from the whole scoring a goal thing. Eichel started the rush with a nice juke move to beat Erik Karlsson wide, sliding a pass to the front of the net.
Marcus Foligno wasn't able to connect on the pass, but have no fear, Eichel out-muscled the defender and kept the puck in the zone. He then dumped it off to Sam Reinhart, who gave it right back, only for the shot to hit the pipe.
But wait, there's more -- Eichel then regained possession and found Reinhart alone in front, who was stoned by Senators goaltender Mike Condon. It was a phenomenal shift by the entire line.
It by no means was a perfect period, but this shift was a really nice example of the pressure that the Sabres managed to apply for most of the period.
If you only looked at the box score for the second period it wouldn't look outrageously lopsided, but anyone who watched Saturday's game knew that it was all Senators for most of the period.
That being said, the Sabres turned things on late in the period and scored on a Ryan O'Reilly redirection to take a 2-0 lead. Ottawa finished with a 13-7 shot advantage in the middle frame, but with five minutes left they were outshooting Buffalo 10-1. Yeesh.
Buffalo turned things on late, but they were lucky to escape the period with a lead. Hey, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
Return of Bailey, Gorges and McCabe
McCabe returned to normal form -- he made one sloppy mistake but he's a really solid all-around defender.
Bailey really does add speed and versatility to the lineup. For a while, Bailey played with Eichel and Reinhart due in part to a few rough shifts from Marcus Foligno. Bailey did have one really bad giveaway in the Sabres zone that lead to a nice chance by the Senators.
Gorges also had an all-around solid game and made a nice play on a Senators odd-man rush to break up a cross-ice pass. Unfortunately for Gorges, the puck bounced off his body and went to a different Sens forward, but Lehner was able to bail him out. Gorges took a penalty in the third period but it was a pretty ticky-tack call.
I thought both played well in their respective returns to the lineup.