Brendan's gotta Bell-ieve

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Brendan Bell made a case for himself last night.

The Senators defenceman scored a pair of goals in Ottawa's 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, again showing flashes of what he can do at this level.

"My career is at stake here," said the 25-year-old Ottawa native after the first two-goal game of his 88-game NHL career. "The better I play down the stretch, the more opportunity there is going to be for me. I'm going to try to keep playing like that and make it as hard on them as possible."

Consistency and intensity, particularly in his own end, have been the issues for Bell over his career. Upgrading those areas is his ticket to stay because he has certainly shown he can contribute at the other end of the rink on a team that has been looking for defencemen to move the puck.

Bell's goals, to go along with one each from Dany Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson and an effort Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff called embarrassing, put a dent in the Sabres' playoff hopes as they had entered the game three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. They managed just one shot in the second period and only 13 on the night and that was after jumping in front 2-0 in the first period on goals by Tony Lydman and Jason Pominville.

"I'm very disappointed. I'm embarrassed with the way we played the last 40 minutes," said Ruff.

"It's not acceptable at this time of the year."

At one point last night, the Sabres took seven straight minors, handing the Senators the momentum in the game. Heatley scored his 33rd of the season 93 seconds into the second period, just after a Buffalo penalty expired, to get the Senators going. Bell scored his first of the night at 6:06 on the power play to tie it.

Alfredsson converted a pretty saucer pass from Jason Spezza -- who had a strong night -- on a 2-on-1 at 3:30 of the third for the winner on the power play, and Bell salted it away at 11:26 with the man advantage.

"Any time you get two goals, you've got to feel good," said Bell. "Both goals were the result of good plays by other players. I'm not going to score a lot. I was fortunate to get in two good spots."

SIXTH WIN IN SEVEN GAMES

The Senators, who probably can't afford another loss to keep their all-but-dead playoff hopes alive, won for the sixth time in seven games to move within a game of the break-even mark: 29-30-10.

The win was the sixth straight for rookie goaltender Brian Elliott, equalling the longest such stretch for a Senators rookie (Jani Hurme and Ray Emery also won six).

"We're playing some good hockey right now. We put ourselves in a huge hole earlier this season, but we still have a chance (to make the playoffs)," said Bell. "That's our mentality right now."

They are now 12-6-3 under coach Cory Clouston, who took over from the fired Craig Hartsburg.

"We feel good about our game right now," said Clouston. "We feel confident if we get down a goal or two. We understand it's a long game and if we stick to our game plan, we can have success."

A long string of penalties kept the play in the Sabres zone for most of the second.

With the Sabres spending all their time defending, they managed just one shot in the second period for a total of seven through 40 minutes. They had scored their second goal with their sixth shot.

"We played a pretty solid game and the shots were a good indication of that," said Heatley. "They were taking penalties because we were skating so well."

Tomorrow night, the Senators host the Montreal Canadiens, who lost in a shootout to the Rangers last night and slipped into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

CHRIS.STEVENSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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