Pascal Leclaire nearly stole the show on opening night at Scotiabank Place.
But thanks to a happy homecoming for Derek Roy, Leclaire couldn’t steal two points.
The Senators goaltender promised he’d step up when the lights were turned on for real and he delivered with a 34-stop performance, but it wasn’t enough in a 2-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres in front of 19,350 fans.
Only centre Chris Kelly was able to beat Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller on the 26 shots he faced. Ottawa went 0-for-6 on a power play that featured defenceman Sergei Gonchar — including two opportunities in the dying minutes.
Leclaire was a human highlight reel.
“I felt good. The first five minutes I felt the nerves,” said Leclaire. “As the night went on, I got more comfortable. I got a lot of shots, so it was a little easier to get into the game. It’s a good start. But we play to win, so I’ll be better when we get our first win.”
Roy, born in Ottawa, scored twice for the Sabres. He scored the game winner on the power play, banking it off Leclaire from behind the net at 10:12 of the third. The goal came with Chris Campoli in the box for cross-checking.
Outshot by a lot
With the Senators outshot 29-12 through 40 minutes, Ottawa needed the heroic performance it was getting from Leclaire.
“We were flat. We didn’t come out with the jump we needed,” said coach Cory Clouston. “Whether it was a little bit too high and trying to get too fancy at times. It wasn’t until the third period that we started playing more of our game and we fell just short. We basically gave away the whole second period.”
The Senators fired only three shots on Miller in the second, but Kelly scored the tying goal at 19:11.
After good work by rugged winger Chris Neil along the boards, Jarkko Ruutu picked up the puck and threw a perfect pass across the slot to Kelly, who simply had to deposit into an open net.
The Senators were without No. 1 centre Jason Spezza, who was a scratch with a groin injury.
Roy gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead in the first. He made a slick toe-drag move past defenceman Chris Phillips in the slot and then beat a sprawling Leclaire with a backhander at 8:04.
The Senators face the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.
“It was the first game. There were a lot of emotions and guys were going hard,” said Kelly. “I thought (Leclaire) played excellent. He kept us in the game in the first two periods. He made some big saves to give us an opportunity to go into the third tied.
“There are some things we want to work on. We’ll build off (the good things) and hopefully have a better outing (against Toronto).”