BUFFALO -- Senators 3, Sabres 1
Upon further review, the Senators all but wrapped up the Northeast Division last night.
But it took a long video review and strong defensive play in the absence of defencemen Zdeno Chara and Anton Volchenkov before the Senators secured a 3-1 victory over the Sabres.
After moving nine points clear of Buffalo, the Senators can focus their sights on the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team as they moved into a first-place tie with Western Conference-leading Detroit at 102 points.
Last night, the Senators -- who got goals from Daniel Alfredsson, Antoine Vermette and Patrick Eaves -- needed help from video judge John Galipeau as they clung to a 2-1 lead in the third period.
The Sabres were incensed after what appeared to be a goal by Mike Grier to tie it 2-2 only 45 seconds into the third was waved off by referee Kevin Pollock following a five- minute review.
While the fans in Buffalo booed loudly when the replay was shown on the scoreboard, Pollock ruled a mishandled shot by Ray Emery that appeared to be pushed in by Grier didn't completely cross the line.
"I thought it was in and the referee signalled it was in as well," said Grier. "Ottawa made the call and they went upstairs. I guess there's not much you can do about it."
"I guess (the league office) called and they had a better angle and said it wasn't a goal."
Emery was quite sure what was going on.
"I saw the puck go through my legs, I heard the horn go off, I saw the people celebrating and they signalled it a goal. I just figured it was in," said Emery. "I guess luck was on my side. That's a big two points for us. We needed to get that win."
Four minutes after the call was overturned, Eaves put the game away with his 15th goal of the season at 4:56, firing a bullet from the slot by Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
Playing without Chara and Volchenkov, the Senators received a solid performance from Emery, who improved his post-Olympic record to 11-1-1.
"I thought Emery was strong," said Ottawa coach Bryan Murray. "That was a good performance. We're going in the right direction."
Alfredsson opened the scoring at 4:32 of the first following some nifty work by centre Tyler Arnason, who is starting to look more comfortable since being acquired from Chicago at the trade deadline.
After Arnason set up Alfredsson, Vermette scored his 19th of the season by picking up a loose puck in front of Miller and beat him with a backhander at 6:56 of the first period.
With the Sabres on the power play, former 67's defenceman Brian Campbell fired a shot from the point that was tipped through Emery's leg by J.P. Dumont. As the Buffalo players started to celebrate, the puck bounced off the left post, moved along the line and then clanged off the right post while referee Rob Schick waved it off.