BUFFALO -- The Senators can no longer hide in the shadows of Canada's gold-medal winning junior hockey team.
Shoved to the sidelines as Ottawa hosted the world junior championship, the Senators were back on the main stage last night, and let's just say nobody was asking for an encore.
After spotting the Sabres a three-goal lead early in the second period, the Senators battled back with a two-goal effort from centre Jason Spezza, but it wasn't enough as they dropped a 4-2 decision to Buffalo and fell to 1-6-1 on their eight-game road trip.
The trip wraps up tomorrow night with a game against the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins in Boston.
Like all Sabres-Senators games, this one was heated. Ottawa winger Jarkko Ruutu could be facing a suspension after he apparently bit Buffalo tough guy Andrew Peters' finger in the first period. Ruutu denied biting anyone after the game. Buffalo officials were also complaining that winger Chris Neil should have been penalized for elbowing Paul Gaustad in the head.
Senators goaltender Alex Auld, making his second straight start after Sunday's 4-3 loss in overtime to the Devils, didn't look sharp to start the game as Matt Ellis scored on the game's first shot 15 seconds in, but Auld settled down and came up with some good stops in the final 30 minutes.
"I thought we had lots of chances in the third. We competed, but unfortunately we had a really slow start," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg. "The first shift puts us on our heels. We're a team that's obviously fragile. That is certainly not the way to start. Once we started to compete, got our noses dirty and started to battle, we did some good things."
The Senators looked like they were going to be left for dead after Derek Roy gave the Sabres a 3-0 lead at 5:29 of the second, but some sloppy goaltending by Ryan Miller allowed Ottawa back into the game.
While Miller recently chastised a Buffalo columnist who called him average, he didn't look good on Spezza's first goal. Spezza whipped a puck out from the corner, it bounced off Miller on the glove side and into the net at 7:02.
A perfect pass from Dany Heatley sent Spezza in on a breakaway for his second in a span of only 32 seconds.
Spezza beat Miller through the legs to draw the club within one goal and get the Senators back into the game.
Miller made a good glove stop on Spezza in the dying minutes.
The Senators know they can't be spotting anybody a 3-0 lead and expect to fight back. The Senators outplayed the Sabres in the third, but still fell to 1-16-0 this season when trailing after two periods.
"We battled back. We had some chances until the end. It's frustrating not to tie it up because we battled back," said Spezza. "It's not ideal to be scored on early. We battled back after we scored the two goals. We've got to find a way to put the puck in the net."