Sens can't herd Buffalo

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

BUFFALO -- The Senators went big-game hunting last night.

They came home empty-handed.

Tomas Vanek's second goal -- with Wade Redden in the penalty box and just under four minutes left in regulation time -- gave the Sabres a 3-2 win and the Senators their second loss in a row.

"I tried to go down and get a stick in the way ... it was just one of those broken plays," Chris Kelly said of the winning goal and the deflection that left goalie Ray Emery handcuffed.

"It's a tough loss for us. We played really well in the third. I thought we were coming back and they get a late goal with four minutes left. It's a tough one to swallow."

It also cost the Senators a chance to shoot past the Penguins and Habs and into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Senators entered the third period down 2-1, but with the knowledge the Sabres should be tiring after returning home from Atlanta late the night before.

"I thought we started really good in the first 10 minutes," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "They were playing three, four back ... they played (Tuesday).

STRIKE ON POWER PLAY

Ottawa had a 5-on-3 man advantage for 33 seconds early in the third and looked like it wasn't going to be able to do anything with it.

But with 17 seconds left in the second penalty, Peter Schaefer cashed a rebound off a Andrej Meszaros point shot, swiping the loose puck over Buffalo goalie Martin Biron.

It was Schaefer's ninth goal of the season.

The game appeared headed for overtime when Redden was called for impeding Ales Kotalik as he drove to the net.

"It was a good game, a real battle," said Ottawa coach Bryan Murray. "I thought both teams played hard and a power play at the end decided the game."

The Senators now face a couple more big games as they host the Habs tonight and play Montreal again Saturday at the Bell Centre.

"It's a tight race," said Schaefer. "We have to go get ready for (tonight)."

Or, as Alfredsson put it:

"The games are getting more and more interesting," said the captain. "It's a dogfight, every game is important. Especially the divisional ones."

BAD PASS

Last night, the teams exchanged quick volleys in the second half of the second period before Maxim Afinogenov's blast off the post at the 17:37 mark sent Buffalo into the third up 2-1.

The Sabres had opened the scoring on a gift, when Vanek intercepted a soft pass from Anton Volchenkov intended for Joe Corvo inside the Senators blue line.

Vanek patiently held on to the puck as he cruised around Ray Emery to slide a shot into the gaping cage.

MCAMMOND ENDS SKID

Corvo helped get that one back 41 second later. His wrist shot was stopped by Biron, but the rebound lay at the goalie's feet for Dean McAmmond to knock home and end a 14-game skid for McAmmond.

After the morning skate, Biron spoke of the Sabres' need to play smart hockey coming off a late return home from a game the night before to face a rested Senators team that hadn't been in action since Saturday.

Ironically enough, Biron took the only Buffalo penalty in the first period as he fired the puck into the crowd after winning a race with Alfredsson.


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