By Tim Schmitt
BUFFALO — With a pair of high-flying offenses on the marquee, the Eastern Conference finals might come down to the defense that can tread water longest.
In Thursday’s Game 1 at HSBC Arena, the visiting Senators clearly won that battle. Buffalo’s defense consistently turned the puck over, led by Dmitri Kalinin and first-liner Toni Lydman. Buffalo finished with 19 giveaways to Ottawa’s eight, and three of Buffalo’s backliners — Kalinin, Lydman and Teppo Numminen — were each credited with two.
“It was disappointing,” Lindy Ruff said. “We weren’t very good with the puck. (Kalinin) was one off them, but I think there were a number of players. Our puck management wasn’t very good. That’s probably the reason we ended up losing the hockey game. We weren’t good with it. We gave it away.”
Ending long scoring droughts with big goals is nothing new to Oleg Saprykin. A healthy scratch until Patrick Eaves’ concussion in the opening round, Saprykin’s finest hour came in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals, when his overtime marker in Game 5 put the Calgary Flames just 60 minutes from a title. That goal came on the heels of an 18-game scoreless streak.
Saprykin hadn’t registered a point in the previous seven postseason games he’d played before tipping in a pass from Dean McAmmond on Thursday. Saprykin was acquired from Phoenix in a deadline-day deal that sent a second-round pick to the Coyotes.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to help those guys,” Saprykin said.
The Senators evened their all-time playoff record with the victory. Through 10 years and 16 playoff series, the Senators are now 45-45.
Nearly half (22) of those losses were by one goal and Ottawa has lost 11 overtime games.
Looking to be trendy in your animosity? Skip Ray Emery. According to a piece in the Ottawa Sun, Mike Comrie and Sean Avery are friends who hang out in Los Angeles during the offseason. Comrie is also friends with actress Elisha Cuthbert, Avery’s girlfriend.
Did Bart Simpson pull one over on the Sabres’ PR staff prior to Game 1? Seems so. Between periods, the Jumbotron had birthday wishes for Justin Kase and Oliver Kloseoff. Here’s hoping Al Koholic isn’t celebrating a birthday on Saturday.
The two teams split 58 faceoffs, but Buffalo’s Derek Roy proved a liability. Roy won just four of the 13 draws he took for the Sabres.
Contact Group Sports Editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.