OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators were admittedly below their best Thursday night, but their performance was still good enough to beat the struggling Buffalo Sabres.
“Obviously, you’d like to be perfect every night, but sometimes you’ve just got to find a way to win,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said after the Eastern Conference leaders blew a two-goal, third-period but still managed a 3-2 victory over the Sabres in shootout.
“There’s a lot of confidence in our room and we do find a way even though we’re not playing great.” The feat was made easier by the fact that the Senators were facing the injury-plagued and slumping Sabres, who saw their winless streak extended to eight games.
“You never like to do it, but we didn’t play a great third period at all,” Alfredsson said. “They probably were a little more desperate than us, being in their situation, and it’s nice for us to win in a shootout.”
After Shean Donovan and Alfredsson scored for Ottawa (28-10-4) and Clarke MacArthur and Daniel Paille replied for Buffalo (19-18-5) in regulation, Dean McAmmond scored the deciding goal in shootout.
It took six shooters aside to decide things, with McAmmond and Mike Fisher managing to beat Sabres goaltender Jocelyn Thibault. Thomas Vanek was the lone shooter to beat Martin Gerber at the other end and Gerber clinched the victory for the Senators by stopping Jochen Hecht’s final attempt.
The Sabres are in their longest slide since they went eight without a win in December 2003.
Their last victory came Dec. 22 in Philadelphia when they beat the Flyers 6-5 in shootout. At the time, it was their sixth straight triumph.
“We’ve been going through some adversity recently and things are not going our way,” said Thibault, who was making just his sixth appearance of the season in goal for Buffalo and finished with 23 saves. “It’s a tough game coming here to Ottawa and playing against them, but we came back and played hard and we could have won that game. It just went their way in the shootout.”
“We’re hoping every game, every time we’re playing, that it’s going to turn and it’s going to go our way.” Gerber made 22 saves as Ottawa won its third straight game in front of a crowd of 19,843 at sold-out Scotiabank Place.
The Senators, who went 0-for-6 on the power play while Buffalo was 0-for-4, improved to 4-1-0 on the season against the Sabres.
Buffalo was without centres Derek Roy, who missed his second straight game because of a shoulder injury, and Tim Connolly, who sat out because of soreness. The team already has Maxim Afinogenov on injured reserve with a groin injury.
“It’s disappointing, but you can’t fault the effort,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “You can be disappointed, it doesn’t look good, but with the number of guys we had out, if you’d have told me before the game we’d get a point out of this, I’d have taken it.”
Thibault was starting his first game since Dec. 6. Ryan Miller had made 15 straight starts before finally getting the night off Thursday.
Donovan scored early in the second and Alfredsson added his team-high 26th of the season, while shorthanded later in the period, and the Senators appeared to be cruising.
But MacArthur scored early in the third and Paille, who’d missed the previous two games with a concussion, tied the score with just more than seven minutes remaining in regulation time.
Gerber had to be sharp the rest of the way to keep the Sabres from earning two points.
“Overall, I didn’t think our game what that great,” said Fisher, who had an assist on Alfredsson’s goal – a play that extended both players’ point-scoring streaks to eight games.
“A good sign is we’re finding ways to win games late and close games, but we’ve got to play better as a whole and work a little harder and be smarter,”
Notes: Defenceman Wade Redden appeared in his 800th career game for the Senators on Thursday. … Ottawa plays host to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday in a matchup of the top teams in each conference. … The Sabres are home to New Jersey that same night.