OTTAWA – Jacob Lucchini waited a long time for his first NHL goal, but not even he could have imagined Sunday’s scenario.
The 27-year-old lived out a childhood dream by scoring the game winner in the Ottawa Senators 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
“It’s so hard to put into words, honestly,” said Lucchini. “You just dream about it and it was so special and, obviously, the crowd with so many people. It was such an exciting game so to have a positive impact like that was really, you know, important for me and good for our team.”
Lucchini was able to share the special moment with his mother, Sandy, who happened to be in town for the game.
The road to the NHL has been a long one for the native of Trail, B.C., and he hasn’t taken anything for granted as he played in just his fifth game.
While the goal was special for Lucchini it was clear his teammates were just as excited as they raced to swarm him.
“It was unreal,” said Senators captain Brady Tkachuk. “It’s always special, not only for (Lucchini), but for everybody to be a part of a first NHL goal and see a dream come true. It’s amazing.”
Tim Stutzle scored the other two goals for the Senators (17-17-3), while Anton Forsberg, who hadn’t started in goal since Dec. 18, was solid making 33 saves.
“Both goalie coaches have done a great job of coming up with drills and we’ve been working hard together to be able to stay in game shape. I felt good out there. I didn’t feel like I haven’t played for a while which is great,” said Forsberg.
As impressive as Stutzle has been offensively, the 20-year-old is now being counted on defensively.
Stutzle was on the ice when the Sabres had a two-man advantage and for the final minutes of the game, where he managed to score an empty-net goal for his second of the game.
“I just try to play my best and I try to play better defensively every day and I think D.J. (Smith) trusts me in every situation so that’s really great to see. I try to give it back to him and play my best and try to give everything for the team,” said Stutzle.
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“Block shots, do everything I can and hopefully help the team win.”
The loss snapped the Sabres (18-15-2) six-game winning streak.
Zemgus Girgensons scored the lone goal for the Sabres. Craig Anderson stopped 33 shots.
Through the six-game stretch the Sabres had scored 28 goals. This marked the first game where they scored less than three.
“We’re used to scoring goals, and when that doesn’t happen, everyone gets, you know, ‘Oh my goodness, we didn’t score,’ but that’s going to happen,” said Anderson.
“You’re going to run into some bad luck or a hot goalie in some way, shape or form throughout the year. We can’t dwell on it. You just have to turn the page and look forward to the next one.”
Trailing 2-1 to start the third the Sabres pressed for the equalizer, but Forsberg was up to the challenge. Tage Thompson had a great chance at the halfway mark of the period, but rang a shot off the post.
Thompson was his own harshest critic.
“Just got to be better,” he said. “It wasn’t a good enough effort tonight by me, and I think we left Andy hanging a lot.”
The Sabres took advantage of a bad line change when Mattias Samuelsson made a long pass to Girgensons to send him in alone and he beat Forsberg with a wrist shot to tie the game 1-1 early in the second.
Midway through the period Lucchini jumped on a loose puck in front and buried his first goal on the power play to make it 2-1.
In the opening minute of the game Stutzle looked to pass to Brady Tkachuk, but the puck bounced right back in his direction and he quickly beat Anderson just 47 seconds into the game.
The Sabres finished the first with a two-man advantage, but were unable to capitalize and trailed 1-0 and that seemed to set the tone for the Sabres.
“The 5-on-3 depicted everything,” said Sabres coach Don Granato. “We complicated what should have been really simple. We had time and space. We just couldn’t even make a simple play. Those are unfortunate signs of fatigue.”
Drake Batherson needed one point to tie Marian Hossa for third longest point streak in Senators history. His 12-game point run is the second longest current streak in the league, but came to an end Sunday as he was held off the scoresheet. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid leads the league with 17 games.
The Senators remain without defencemen Erik Brannstrom and Nikita Zaitsev. Buffalo’s Alex Tuch has 28 points (10G, 18A) in his last 19 games.
The Senators host Columbus Tuesday night, while the Sabres will head to Washington to take on the Capitals.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 1, 2023.
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