Buffalo Sabres 4, Ducks 1
Eight keys to the game:
THE FACTS: Playing before a pro-Teemu Selanne crowd in his hometown of Helsinki, Finland, the Ducks continued their season-opening woes Friday night, losing for the 14th time in 18 openers since the team was established.
THE STAT: The Ducks out-shot the Sabres, 11-0, in the third period to tie a franchise record for fewest shots allowed in a period, but still couldn’t get anything past Buffalo goalkeeper Ryan Miller. They finished with an overall 30-25 advantage in shots on net.
TURNING POINT: The Ducks finally got on the board 4 ½ minute into the second period. Maxime Macenauer won a face-off in his offensive zone and passed to defenseman Nate Guenin, who threw the puck at the net. Somehow, it got past Miller for his only miscue of the game, giving Guenin his first NHL goal and Macenauer his first NHL point on the assist. That burst of excitement lasted 73 seconds, as Jason Pominville sent a shot through traffic that Ducks goalkeeper Jonas Hiller apparently never saw as it slid through his legs for a 3-1 lead.
HOT: The busiest player on the ice was also one of the oldest. Jason Blake, 38, took a team-high five shots on goal and dished out three hits. Unfortunately, his linemates weren’t as active. Selanne, perhaps weary from his media tour throughout Helsinki during the last week, took one shot on goal and had three giveaways. Saku Koivu took one shot on goal and committed two minor penalties, one of which led to Buffalo’s first goal of the game at the 4:02 mark of the first period, putting the Ducks in the hole for good.
NOT: Whatever happened to the top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry? The trio, oh so important to the team’s success this season, must have left their games in one of the saunas. The RPG line combined for zero shots on goal in the first period, when the Ducks fell behind 2-0 and were essentially taken out of the game. They finished with a total of seven shots on goal but most of those came when the Sabres were sitting back protecting a three-goal lead in the third period. Hiller, coming off vertigo symptoms that sidelined him for most of the second half of last season, stopped 21 of 25 shots. The one that snuck through his pads to make it 3-1 was a biggie.
GOOD MOVE: Keeping Guenin on the roster is looking like a good idea. Not only did the 28-year-old journeyman from Swickley, Pennsylvania, who came in with just 17 previous NHL games under his belt, notch the only goal for Anaheim, he equaled a team-high with three hits and also had a takeaway in 13:02 of ice time. Guenin needs to take advantage of his opportunities, as the Ducks will need to trim a roster spot when Toni Lydman returns from offseason shoulder surgery.
BAD MOVE: What’s so frustrating about the lack of success on the RPG line is they had their chances. The Ducks went on the power play five times, including a brief 5-on-3 in the third period, but got nothing out of the extra attackers. Interestingly, the Ducks tried to save the legs of their superstars by inserting some of their youngest and least experienced players on the penalty kill. Instead the Sabres took advantage, scoring on two of their four power plays.
NOTABLE: The Ducks announced before the game they will wear a No. 24 patch on their jerseys beginning next week in honor of Ruslan Salei, who spent nine years with the team before he was killed in a plane crash last month in Russia with the rest of his KHL team. Salei still holds the franchise record for most games played by a defenseman (594)
UP NEXT: Saturday vs. New York Rangers in Stockholm, Sweden, 10 a.m. (PT).