|Ottawa Senators Ray Emery returned in net and lead his team to a road win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night. (Ottawa Sun/Blair Gable)
BUFFALO -- That whistling noise around 9:30 last night was the steam sizzling out of the Senators' pressure cooker.
With rumours running wild about the fate of management, coaches and players amid the club's struggling start, the Senators gutted out a huge 4-2 win over the league-leading Buffalo Sabres last night.
It wasn't easy as the Senators, backed by the return of goaltender Ray Emery, handed the Sabres just their second loss in regulation time this season, coming from behind for the first time this season to do it.
"It's a huge relief," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who saw his shot tipped by winger Peter Schaefer for the winner at 12:49 of the third, but only after an agonizing replay review.
"It feels really good right now. I'm going to wait until (today) to worry about New Jersey (they Senators play there tomorrow night). It's been a tough time for us and we know we're not out of it. We beat the best team in the league. We needed that one. It feels good right now."
The Senators, now 7-10-1, came back after trailing 2-1 after two periods, the first time this season they rallied for a win in the third period and the first time they've won a game in eight tries when the opposition has scored first.
After a few agonizing minutes, Schaefer's goal was ruled legal and turned out to be the winner. The Senators' faces were tight on the bench as officials reviewed the goal and then the faces broke into huge smiles when the referee signaled to centre ice.
"The guys were betting on the bench the goal would be called back the way things have been going for us," said Schaefer. "Which way was I betting? We've been having a lot of meetings lately and have been told not to bet, so I wasn't."
They iced it with a short-handed goal by Chris Phillips into the empty net in the final minute as they killed a tripping penalty to Jason Spezza. He had tied the game 2-2 in the third.
The Senators came up with one of their best efforts of the season and maybe came closest to playing a full three periods, an encouraging sign for the struggling club.
It was just the Senators' second win in their last nine games, a skid which had been fuelling speculation jobs were on the line as the club approaches the 20-game mark of the season.
Senators coach Bryan Murray said the win is something for the Senators to build upon.
"It only matters if we do well in the next game," he said. "It's a great character win, but it doesn't mean a lot if we don't carry on that way."
Spezza, called out by Senators GM John Muckler earlier in the day, tied the game 2-2 at 6:32 of the third on the power play when he deflected a shot by defenceman Andrej Meszaros by Biron.
It was one of the few times the Senators actually got a shot through as the Sabres blocked 18 shots through two periods.
Despite having a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:12 in the second period, the Senators were held to just four shots in the period.
After Buffalo's Daniel Briere and Ottawa's Chris Neil exchanged goals in the first period, the Senators fell behind early in the second on some poor coverage off a rush.
Just after Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov hit the post, the Sabres broke back into the Senators' zone, where Buffalo's Drew Stafford stole the puck from Schaefer.
Emery got his right toe on Stafford's low shot and the rebound went right to an uncovered Thomas Vanek, who slapped it into the open side at 2:54 for his team-leading 12th goal of the season.
Briere had opened the scoring 5:36 of the first after Meszaros committed another glaring turnover, fanning on a pass and putting the puck right on Briere's stick. He took a couple of strides and ripped a shot over Emery's right shoulder.
Neil's goal, on the power play, came off a sharp-angle shot that snuck by Biron on the short side at 9:36 of the first.
The Senators will face the Devils in New Jersey tomorrow night.