OTTAWA -- Still weary from arriving home at 5 a.m. Wednesday after a grueling, three-games-in-four-days road trip, the Ottawa Senators had no interest in working a longer shift than they had to against the Buffalo Sabres.
Winger Milan Michalek made sure they avoided their third straight overtime when he scored with 21 seconds left in the third period, giving the Senators a 3-2 victory over the Sabres on Thursday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
The goal was the second of the evening for Michalek, who recorded his first multigoal effort of the season.
"We wanted to get the win in regulation, and we're happy about that," said Michalek, who was set up on both tallies by center Jason Spezza. "It's nice to get it because this was an important game.
"It's tough to play against these teams that are out of the playoffs and have nothing to lose. We're happy to get the two points and go from here."
Recovering after blowing a 2-0, third-period lead, the Senators (26-21-11) kept pace in the Eastern Conference wild-card race. Ottawa emerged with at least a point for the fifth time in the past six games.
It was also the fourth loss in a row for the 15-34-8 Sabres, who pressed hard for the equalizer but couldn't get the puck over the line in a last-second scramble.
"There was nothing to save it for. We've got three weeks off coming up (with the Olympic break)," said Sabres center Tyler Ennis, who started the comeback with 9:35 remaining in the final frame. "So there were no excuses not to battle as hard as we could in the third period, and we did a really good job.
"It's super disappointing to lose that one, that's for sure."
Defenseman Erik Karlsson scored the Senators' other goal, and winger Drew Stafford replied for the Sabres.
Senators goalie Craig Anderson stopped 30 shots to earn his 19th win of the season. Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth made 33 saves.
After a scoreless first period in which Ottawa outshot the Sabres 11-7, Karlsson beat Enroth with a wrist shot from the right boards at 3:12 for his 15th of the season.
Michalek increased the lead to 2-0 when he scored at the 10-second mark of the third off a nice feed from Spezza to set a franchise record for fastest goal to start a period. The previous record of 12 seconds was held by Spezza.
"I would have shot it if I had known that," Spezza joked. "At least I'm still involved in (the record), I guess."
The goal was symbolic of the Sabres' luck this season, as the puck bounced off a linesman to Spezza.
"It hit the ref and went straight out to their guy," Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said. "There's nothing you can do about it. The system is we should be going (up ice) there, and we didn't go the right way. Maybe we should have. But still, it hit the ref.
"Bounces are going to happen, and it wasn't happening in our favor."
The Sabres appeared to cut their deficit in half with 14 minutes left in the third when Ennis intercepted an Ottawa clearing attempt and sent a backhander past Anderson. However, replays showed the puck hit both posts without crossing the line.
Five minutes later, Ennis made no mistake when he took a pass from Stafford, who was sprawled behind the Ottawa net, and fired it into the open side.
Stafford tied the game with 4:14 left in regulation after Anderson allowed a juicy rebound off a point shot from defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.
"A two-goal lead is a tricky lead," said Spezza, who has five points in Ottawa's past two games. "You give up the one goal to make it 2-1, then anything can happen. It's a bounce here, a bounce there.
"They sat back all night and tried to frustrate us. I think we did a good job of not getting frustrated, then we let it slip away. But we got it back and we leave with two points."
The Sabres did put forth a better effort than they did in Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but that fact provided them little comfort.
"It's better than the last game, for sure," Tallinder said. "Still, it's all about winning, and you've got to find a way to win. We're not doing it right now."
Leading the league in minor penalty minutes, the Senators killed off seven opposition power plays for the second game in a row.
Ottawa's power play, the worst in the NHL on home ice, went 0-for-3.
NOTES: Senators D Chris Phillips sat out his sixth game with a lower-body injury and is also unlikely to play when the team concludes its pre-break schedule with an afternoon meeting on Saturday in Boston. Heading into 2013-14, Phillips had missed just three games in the previous seven seasons. ... Senators C Stephane Da Costa continues to impress as a spark for the fourth line. On Thursday, he was in the lineup for the eighth time in nine games since his recall from AHL Binghamton. He had three goals in his previous four outings as well as an important shootout goal in St. Louis. And in the second period against the Sabres, he had an assist on a goal by D Erik Karlsson. Coach Paul MacLean says Da Costa has improved defensively and in the faceoff circles since being demoted after the team's first five games of the season. ... Sabres G Ryan Miller served as backup after facing 34 shots in a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday. Starting between the pipes was G Jhonas Enroth, who has just one win in 20 games. ... Sabres D Tyler Myers was scratched from the lineup for a second consecutive game. Joining him in the press box were RW/LW Marcus Foligno and RW/LW Linus Omark. ... The three previous games played between the two clubs this season also were decided by one goal. The lone victory by Buffalo went to a shootout
By Don Brennan, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: February 6, 2014 11:47:01 PM
Senators blow lead before edging Sabres
|All Times Eastern|