The Buffalo Sabres will be more than happy to keep winning ugly.
After losing the first three games of a six-game homestand, the Sabres have upped their physical play -- and seen the benefits. Cody McCormick had a goal and assist, and Ryan Miller finished with 29 saves Friday night as the Sabres beat the Ottawa Senators 4-2.
It was the Sabres' second straight win -- and the second straight game in which they won with aggressive, physical play. Buffalo outhit the Senators by a 24-9 margin two days after registering 24 hits in a 4-1 win against the Atlanta Thrashers.
"Oftentimes it's not going to be pretty," said forward Mike Grier, who opened the scoring with a breakaway goal 6 minutes into the game. "You're going to have find different ways to get goals, get pucks to the net, and play well defensively. If we can win games 2-1 or 3-2, we'll take it at this time of the year."
"We have to keep putting pressure on teams," said McCormick, who posted his third multi-point game of the season. "If we can make them make turnovers, we can capitalize on it."
The win kept the Sabres three points behind eighth-place Carolina, which beat Pittsburgh. Buffalo has two games in hand.
Miller preserved the win with a terrific pad save on Nick Foligno's shot from the slot with 39 seconds left in regulation. Vanek hit the empty net 7 seconds later for his 23rd goal of the season.
"He's a great goalie and he showed why," Foligno said of Miller. "If I get it up a little higher, maybe he's just not there and it goes in."
Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza each had a goal and an assist for the Senators, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Craig Anderson made 35 saves in his third game for Ottawa since being acquired from Colorado last week in exchange for Brian Elliott -- part of a host of deals as the Senators clean house after a disappointing season.
"The effort was there, but we just don't have the chemistry right now," coach Cory Clouston said.
Hecht increased Buffalo's lead to 3-1 with his 10th goal of the season 7:35 into the third, but Michalek made it 3-2 with 1:55 left in regulation with his 16th.
With Anderson pulled, the Senators swarmed the Buffalo zone, but were unable to get anything past Miller, who has rebounded after allowing a season-high seven goals in a loss to the New York Islanders on Feb. 13. Miller has surrendered two or fewer goals in each of his last five starts since.
"We hung with it," he said. "I think Anderson made a couple of good saves when we could have stretched it out a little bit."
Up by a goal after the first period, Buffalo pushed its lead to 2-0 on McCormick's eighth of the season midway through the second period. Standing in the slot, McCormick took advantage of a fortunate bounce off the end boards that resulted in the puck going right on his stick before he flicked it in.
Spezza cut the deficit in half with his 12th with 5:36 left in the second, lifting the puck in on the backhand after going in alone on Miller from the blue line.
The Sabres finish their homestand Saturday night against Detroit before beginning a seven-game trip in New York on Tuesday.
"It's an up-and-down season, a roller coaster, and when you're going good you've got to try to ride the momentum as much as you can," Grier said. "If we can get a win here (Saturday) night, we'll be feeling good about ourselves going into a pretty tough road trip."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report
|Michael Grier (4) Backhand shot - ASST: Cody McCormick (9)|
1 - 0 BUF
|Cody McCormick (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Steve Montador (12), Jordan Leopold (22)|
2 - 0 BUF
|Jason Spezza (12) Backhand shot - ASST: Erik Condra (2), Milan Michalek (13)|
2 - 1 BUF
|Jochen Hecht (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Drew Stafford (12), Tyler Ennis (22)|
3 - 1 BUF
|Milan Michalek (16) Wrist shot - ASST: Jason Spezza (19), Matt Carkner (6)|
3 - 2 BUF
|EN - Thomas Vanek (23) Wrist shot - ASST: Steve Montador (13), Ryan Miller (1)|
4 - 2 BUF
|Mike Weber Boarding against Bobby Butler|
|Francis Lessard Cross checking against Patrick Kaleta|
|Jordan Leopold Interference against Milan Michalek|
|Rob Niedermayer Hooking against Milan Michalek|
|Milan Michalek Boarding against Thomas Vanek|
|Patrick Kaleta Interference on goalkeeper against Craig Anderson|