BUFFALO, N.Y. – Mired in an early-season slump, the Ottawa Senators turned to a couple of things they can count on – their power play and a trip to Buffalo.
Jason Spezza had two goals and an assist, and Alex Auld made 25 saves in Ottawa’s 5-2 victory over the Sabres on Monday night, halting a four-game losing streak.
Ottawa, which has the fourth-ranked power play, converted twice with the extra skater to help the Senators (3-5-1) earn a win for the eighth time in 13 games against the Sabres in Buffalo.
“We just get up for this team,” said Spezza, who scored for the first time in five games. “We know we have to be ready, so that’s why we’ve had some success here.”
Things didn’t look good coming in against the Sabres (6-1-2), who were the only Eastern Conference club that had yet to lose in regulation. Buffalo also was the league’s stingiest defensive unit, allowing just 1.6 goals per game, while the Senators had scored just eight times in their four consecutive defeats.
But after Christoph Schubert scored his first of the season late in the first period while on the power play, Ottawa broke the game open with a three-goal second period that featured a power-play goal by Dany Heatley and two consecutive Spezza goals.
“The power play moved the puck real well,” Spezza said. “It’s been good the first little bit. Tonight our 5-on-5 was better and the power play kept rolling.”
Shean Donovan also scored, Heatley added an assist, and Daniel Alfredsson chipped in with a pair of helpers.
“I don’t think it’s a relief because winning should never be a relief,” Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg said. “We took a good step here, and we need to continue.”
Auld, playing in his third straight game in place of injured starter Martin Gerber, improved to 5-0-2 lifetime against the Sabres.
“That was a good test for us,” Auld said. “We feel we definitely played one of our top games of the year. When we play that way, it shows we can do a lot of very good things.”
Clarke MacArthur and Teppo Numminen scored, and Patrick Lalime finished with 23 saves for the Sabres, who have lost two straight, including a 2-1 shootout loss to Colorado on Saturday.
Buffalo was without defencemen Craig Rivet (knee) and Henrik Tallinder (lower leg laceration), but Lalime refused to use the absences as an excuse.
“We made a couple of mistakes, and I didn’t make the big save,” he said. “They have the big scorers, and if you make a couple of mistakes they make you pay.”
Heatley made it 2-0 just 19 seconds into the second with the man advantage, wristing a shot from the slot past Lalime.
Spezza scored 4:29 later, lifting the puck over a sprawled Lalime on a partial breakaway, then increased Ottawa’s lead to 4-0 late in the second by banging home a bouncing puck in the crease.
Donovan made it 5-0 nearly six minutes into the third after redirecting Jesse Winchester’s pass in tight before MacArthur spoiled Auld’s shutout bid with a power-play goal with Ottawa down two men with 5:23 remaining in regulation.
Numminen capped the scoring on the power play with 32 seconds to go.
Buffalo converted just two of its 10 power-play opportunities.
“We’re going to dump this one in the trash can and move on,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
Notes: Commissioner Gary Bettman was at the game after attending an afternoon news conference that announced Buffalo will host the 2011 world junior hockey championship. … Tallinder missed his first game after sustaining a cut just above his ankle against Colorado, and Rivet is still recovering from knee surgery. … Gerber continues to be sidelined because of a pulled leg muscle. … Buffalo had played in four consecutive games that went into overtime or a shootout. … The Senators are 16-5-4 against the Sabres over the past four seasons. … Ottawa will play six of its next nine on the road. … Lalime played five years for the Senators from 1999-2004. … Ottawa D Filip Kuba had his eight-game point streak snapped.