BUFFALO, N.Y. – Make that a perfect 10 for the Ottawa Senators.
Daniel Alfredsson scored twice in the final minute – including an empty-netter – and the Senators extended a franchise-best winning streak to 10 with a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
In a night of milestones, Brian Elliott stopped 36 shots to win his eighth in a row to match the team record he set last year. The Senators also tied another team mark by winning their sixth consecutive road game.
Jason Spezza had two goals to give him a seven-game scoring streak, including five since returning from a right knee injury.
The Senators (32-21-4) are within three points of the first-place Sabres (32-16-7) in the Northeast Division.
“It is impressive,” said Alfredsson, the Senators captain and longest-tenured player. “I don’t think we expected this from ourselves, either.”
The Sabres didn’t see this loss coming, especially after they appeared to grab momentum eight minutes into the third period, when Andrej Sekera and Tim Connolly tied the game 2-2 by scoring 27 seconds apart.
“We battled hard in the third to get back in it,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “The best description is we just found another way to lose a game.”
Losing to Ottawa has certainly become customary. In beating the Sabres for the eighth straight time, the Senators improved to 24-6-4 against Buffalo since the NHL lockout.
Alfredsson secured the win by scoring the final goal with a minute remaining.
Seeing his teammates work the puck to defenceman Erik Karlsson at the right point, Alfredsson sneaked in behind the Sabres defenders to park himself at the left post. Karlsson wound up as if he was going to shoot and then fed a perfect pass through the slot to Alfredsson.
Alfredsson had enough time to stop the puck with his skate, kick it up on his stick and stuff it into the open side.
“One minute left – we can’t let that guy stand all alone on the backdoor,” Sabres defenceman Henrik Tallinder said. “It stings.”
Ottawa hasn’t lost since a 6-1 defeat at Atlanta on Jan. 12.
Despite giving up goals on consecutive shots, Elliott earned plenty of credit for keeping the Senators in the game, especially in the first period when Ottawa was outshot 13-5.
He made a glove save to rob Jochen Hecht’s backhander from the right circle 10 minutes in. Seven minutes later, he was in a perfect position to get his body in front of a shot from Clarke MacArthur, who got to a loose puck in the slot.
“Els has been phenomenal,” Spezza said. “He was probably the reason why we won. He kept us in that game.”
Elliott has allowed only 10 goals during his winning streak, and he credited his teammates for remaining composed after the Sabres tied the game.
“It’s huge,” Elliott said. “We’re not quitting in the last minute.”
Elliott also got a big assist from teammate Chris Phillips during a scramble in front in the first period. Hecht’s shot deflected over Elliott, and the puck rolled down the goalie’s back toward the open net. Phillips used his stick to bat the puck out of the air just before it crossed the line.
The television feed didn’t show an overhead angle replay because the high-definition camera above the Senators net wasn’t working. Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert said officials reviewed an overhead view of the play recorded by an analog camera.
NOTES: Senators C Jesse Winchester returned after missing 11 games with a knee injury. … Sabres RW Patrick Kaleta didn’t play after bruising his foot in a 5-4 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. … The Sabres lost a home game in regulation for the first time in 13 games (9-1-3). … The NHL recognizes only that Spezza has scored in five straight games following his 20-game absence caused by a torn knee ligament. Seven consecutive games would surpass the Senators’ record set by Dany Heatley.