Game file: Senators at Sabres

The Ottawa Senators had their best effort of the season under trying circumstances.

Game file: Senators at Sabres
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, left, and Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Lee Stempniak, right, vie for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Denver. The Penguins won 3-2 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

WHY THE SENATORS WON

They had their best effort of the season under trying circumstances. Top centre Jason Spezza (he of the 52 career points in 40 games against Buffalo) was a last-minute scratch, forcing Cory Clouston to dress struggling defenceman Brian Lee as a forward. Whether or not it had anything to do with the general manager’s threat to start trading players earlier this week, the Senators came out flying. The end result was a big win and some momentum for a four-game home stand that begins tonight against Montreal.

STUD

Daniel Alfredsson, Senators

As usual, the captain shows up when the Senators need him most. Alfredsson opened the scoring early with a power play tip-in, added the winner with a high wrister in the second and put the game away with an empty-netter in the third. A hat trick is impressive in itself, but the timing couldn’t have been better. Goal No. 3 was career point No. 1,000. What a night.

DUD

Tyler Myers, Sabres

The struggling sophomore’s nightmare start continued Friday night. He saw Alfredsson’s first goal from the penalty box, where he was serving two minutes for unnecessarily decking Milan Michalek in front of the Buffalo net. The second goal was his fault as well, thanks to a blind, behind-the-back pass that landed on Nick Foligno’s stick. The Ottawa winger wrapped around and the puck went in on the ensuing scramble.

GAME CHANGER

Only three NHL teams had racked up more penalty minutes than the Senators going into the game, but Ottawa was on its best behaviour in this one. They only gave up one power play all night — largely because they weren’t running around in their own zone — and killed it off in the third period without too much trouble.

YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

Generally one wouldn’t be surprised to see Jarkko Ruutu’s name associated with a diving penalty on the scoresheet, but his reputation may have gotten the better of him on this one. Ruutu was playing the puck along the boards in the second period when Buffalo sniper Thomas Vanek nailed him from behind, smashing the Ottawa agitator’s face into the glass. At first it appeared Vanek might pick up an extra penalty, but he walked away with just a minor boarding call. Had Ruutu been hurt it would have been a case for supplementary discipline.

KEY STATS

- 11: Sabres giveaways
- 4: First period shots for Buffalo
- 20: Third period shots for Buffalo
- 10-15-2: Vezina winner Ryan Miller’s lifetime record against the Senators
- 9-0-0: Brian Elliott’s lifetime mark against the Sabres

CONTINUING CONCERN

When the team was playing poorly, the goaltending was good. Now that the team is playing well, the goaltending leaves something to be desired. Brian Elliott was extremely shaky early, allowing two softies to Tim Connolly. The first was a wrist shot from the point that appeared to avoid a bunch of sticks in the lane, while the second simply beat him through the blocker arm. He did shut it down with a huge third period, but this one was closer than it had to be.

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