BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Buffalo Sabres know they’ll need more grit than flash and dash to keep them in the playoff hunt.
Cody McCormick had a goal and assist, and Ryan Miller finished with 29 saves to help lift the Sabres to a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
It was the Sabres’ second straight win, and second straight game in which they won with aggressive and physical play. Buffalo outhit the Senators by a 24-9 margin two days after registering 24 hits in a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.
“Often times it’s not going to be pretty,” said Buffalo forward Mike Grier, who opened the scoring with a breakaway goal six minutes into the game. “You’re going to have find different ways to get goals, get pucks to the net, and play well defensively. If we can win games 2-1 or 3-2, we’ll take it at this time of the year.”
Despite the win, the ninth-place Sabres were unable to gain ground on eighth-place Carolina. The Hurricanes defeated Pittsburgh to remain three points in front of the Sabres.
Jochen Hecht and Thomas Vanek also scored to help the Sabres improve to 2-3 on their season-high six-game homestand.
“We have to keep putting pressure on teams,” said McCormick, who posted his third multi-point game of the season. “If we can make them make turnovers, we can capitalize on it.”
Miller helped preserve the win with a terrific pad save on Nick Foligno’s attempt from the slot with 39 seconds left in regulation. Vanek then capped the scoring seven seconds later with an empty-net goal, his 23rd of the season.
“He’s a great goalie and he showed why,” Foligno said of Miller. “If I get it up a little higher, maybe he’s just not there and it goes in.”
Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza each had a goal and an assist for the Senators, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Craig Anderson finished with 35 saves in his third game for Ottawa since being acquired from Colorado last week in exchange for Brian Elliott.
It was the first game for the Senators since dealing Alex Kovalev to Pittsburgh on Thursday. Ottawa has also dealt away veteran forwards Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu this month.
“The effort was there, but we just don’t have the chemistry right now,” Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said.
Hecht increased Buffalo’s lead to 3-1 with his 10th goal of the season 7:35 into the third, but Michalek made it 3-2 with 1:55 left in regulation with his 16th.
With Anderson pulled, the Senators swarmed the Buffalo zone, but were unable to get anything past Miller, who has rebounded nicely after allowing a season-high seven goals in a loss to the New York Islanders on Feb. 13. Miller has surrendered two or fewer goals in each of his last five starts since.
“We hung with it,” he said. “I think Anderson made a couple of good saves when we could have stretched it out a little bit.”
Up by a goal after the first period, Buffalo pushed its lead to 2-0 on McCormick’s eighth of the season midway through the second period. Standing in the slot, McCormick took advantage of a fortunate bounce off the end boards that resulted in the puck going right on his stick before he flicked it in.
Spezza cut the deficit in half with his 12th with 5:36 left in the second, lifting the puck in on the backhand after going in alone on Miller from the blue line.
NOTES: Ottawa RW Chris Neil missed the game after sustaining a lower body injury against Florida on Wednesday. … Ottawa RW Marek Svatos played in his first game since the Senators claimed him off waivers from Nashville on Thursday. … The Sabres conclude their season-high six-game homestand Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. … Buffalo has defeated Ottawa four times this season, the first time since 2001-02 it has secured that many victories in a season against the Senators. … McCormick came into the season with nine career goals. … The Sabres snapped a five-game home losing streak to the Senators, and improved to 2-0 under new owner Terry Pegula.