BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Storybook endings don’t always play out in sports. But when they do, it’s a sight to behold.

“It’s the perfect story,” Sabres goaltender Craig Anderson said following a 4-3 overtime win against his former team the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in Buffalo’s final home game of the season at KeyBank Center.

“It’s unbelievable,” Anderson said. “You’re kind of mind-numb to it all. You’re just like ‘did this really just happen?’ This is the way it’s supposed to be. Things happen for a reason. This was the way it was supposed to play out. They get a point, we get a point. We win in overtime. You couldn’t ask for a better story.”

If the tearful hugs with his wife and two sons at the Zamboni entrance weren’t hints enough, Anderson made it official after the game. He’s retiring after a 20-year career.

“This is it,” Anderson said after a 30-save performance after which he was mobbed by his teammates and celebrated in front of a crowd chanting, “Andy! Andy! Andy!” after Casey Mittelstadt scored his 14th goal of the season and fourth in as many games to secure the win 1:18 into overtime.

“I think I left it all out there. At the end of the day, I did everything I possibly could to make sure that I was competitive and gave the team a chance to win,” Anderson added. “You’ve got to be honest with yourself. And that’s just the way this game goes, Father Time always catches up to you.”

The NHL’s oldest player at 41 won’t be suiting up in Buffalo’s season finale at Columbus on Friday. Anderson closes his career at 319-275-71. The native of Park Ridge, Illinois ranks fifth among American-born goalies in wins and games played (709), and third with 43 shutouts, one behind Ryan Miller.

The Sabres bench erupted with players racing down the ice to mob Anderson in his crease.

“It was emotional,” Sabres captain Kyle Okposo said. “You don’t get to write your own ending very often, especially in this sport. We wanted that one for him. Just an incredible scene. We’ve had a few of these kind of nights over the last couple years, and this one was right at the top of the list. I’m just so happy for him and what he’s done and how he is as a person. How he carries himself every day. The leadership he provides, the perspective that he provides, it’s been incredible to play with him.”

Senators players then waited near their bench to congratulate Anderson, who spent 10 season playing for Ottawa. Among the Senators were two of Anderson’s former teammates Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson.

“It’s an honor for me to to be a part of their careers, too,” Anderson said. “I didn’t know I had that much influence on those guys. But to this day, they’re still thankful for me being there and being part of their entry into the league.”

Tage Thompson scored his team-leading 47th goal in his final game of the season, while Henri Jokiharju and Victor Olofsson also scored for Buffalo in a game between Atlantic Division rivals eliminated from playoff contention. By forcing overtime in rallying from a 3-2 deficit, the Sabres assured themselves of finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference standings.

Though extending their NHL-record playoff drought to 12 seasons following a 6-2 loss at New Jersey on Tuesday, the Sabres have 89 points to match their most since 2011-12, and with one game remaining. Buffalo’s 41 wins are also the most since winning 43 in 2010-11.

The Sabres blew a 2-0 lead in allowing the Senators to score three straight times in the second period. Thompson tied the game at 3 by one-timing Jeff Skinner’s pass into the slot for a power-play goal 3:03 into the third period.

Anderson, who turns 42 next month, was trying to stay in the moment when asked before the game as to whether he might retire this summer. Anderson contemplated retirement last year before signing a one-year contract to return to Buffalo.

“Who knows. I’ve been very fortunate to play this game for a very long time. I’m just going to enjoy every last bit of it,” Anderson said. “The last few years have been on borrowed life support here.”

The Sabres had Anderson’s sons, Jake and Levi, announce Buffalo’s starting lineup in the locker room. The matchup was fitting because Anderson spent 10 seasons with the Senators, where he helped lead the team to the Eastern Conference finals in 2017.


Thompson won’t play in the regular season finale at Columbus due to an upper-body injury that has been nagging him for several weeks, Sabres coach Don Granato said. … D Mattias Samuelsson is missing the final two games with an injury that has bothered him for much of the past month.


Sabres close season at Columbus on Friday in game rescheduled from Dec. 27 due to snow storm in Buffalo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.