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Late goals spark Senators past Sabres

Saturday, 01.05.2008 / 12:29 AM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza each scored a goal in the Senators 5-3 victory over the Sabres.
The Ottawa Senators didn’t get to be the best team in the Eastern Conference without knowing how to keep their composure — and they didn’t lose their cool when the Buffalo Sabres wiped out a 3-0 lead.

Instead, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson scored late in the third period and Ottawa beat Buffalo 5-3 on Friday night to hand the Sabres their season-worst fifth straight loss.

"We weren't worried," said Alfredsson, who assisted on Heatley's goal. "We just wanted to keep going. I think we have enough experience that we don't worry about what could have been. We look at the positive, and we know we can still score."

Ottawa owns the best road record in the Eastern Conference at 14-4-2 — thanks in large part to Heatley and Alfredsson.

"That's what you have elite players for," Senators coach John Paddock said. "That's what those guys have to do at big times if you're going to be a successful team."

After Buffalo rookie Michael Ryan completed the Sabres’ comeback from a three-goal deficit by scoring with 6:11 left in regulation, Heatley put Ottawa back on top with his 24th goal of the season, ripping a slap shot past backup goalie Jocelyn Thibault from the right circle with 4:41 remaining ( 700K ). Alfredsson made it 5-3 two minutes later with his 25th ( 700K ).

"They seem to be able to turn it up a notch when you need them to," said Emery, who won in his first start since Dec. 22. He made 36 saves and was solid in the final two periods, when Buffalo outshot Ottawa 30-16.

Rookie Cody Bass got his first NHL goal 3:05 into the game to put the Sabres ahead ( 700K ). Andrej Meszaros scored at 1:35 of the second period ( 700K ) and Jason Spezza made it 3-0 at 10:49 ( 700K ), sending starting goalie Ryan Miller to the bench in favor of Thibault.

"I'm not really happy," Miller said after allowing three goals on 17 shots in his 13th consecutive start. "I would have liked to stay in. It was one of those nights where we didn't go good enough early and they got a fortunate bounce."

The goaltending change appeared to spark the Sabres. They needed just 15 seconds to get their first goal when Ales Kotalik tapped in Thomas Vanek’s pass ( 700K ).

Jochen Hecht made it 3-2 on the power play with his team-leading 14th goal at 11:31 of the third period ( 700K ), and Ryan tied it with his third of the season 2:18 later ( 700K ). It was a rare offensive burst for the Sabres, who’ve scored just eight times during their slump.

"We need our offense most nights to be better," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We failed in a few little areas."

Hurricanes 4, Thrashers 3 | Video
Carolina finally took advantage of a plethora of power plays when Cory Stillman scored during a five-on-three advantage with 3:23 left to complete a comeback victory at Atlanta.

The Hurricanes had eight power plays to just three for the Thrashers. They got a four-minute opportunity when Ken Klee received a double minor for high-sticking Eric Staal at 12:45 of the third period, and the Thrashers gave them a two-man advantage at 15:12 when Bobby Holik was called for delay of game when he accidentally shot the puck into the crowd.

Carolina worked the puck until Ray Whitney found Stillman all alone in the lower left circle for a quick wrist shot past Kari Lehtonen to break a 3-3 tie and avenge a 5-4 overtime loss at home on Wednesday ( 700K ).

"It was sort of a broken play," Stillman said. "I was in a spot I shouldn't have been. (The shot) was just barely in.”

Atlanta led 2-0 after one period on goals by Mark Recchi ( 700K ) and Todd White ( 700K ). Whitney scored 27 seconds into the second period ( 700K ), but Pascal Dupuis’ shorthanded goal at 3:40 made it 3-1 ( 700K ).

But the parade to the penalty box proved to be the Thrashers’ undoing.

"The difference tonight was our power play," Stillman said. "We had some shots and finally capitalized on them.”

Holik said the Thrashers gave the game away.

"Everything they got, we gave them," Holik said. "We should not be disappointed because we did not play well enough to win. We played well 5-on-5. We said we cannot turn the puck over and we cannot take too many penalties. But we took too many penalties and turned the puck over too much."

Atlanta coach Don Waddell wasn’t happy with the way his team played during the last two periods.

“I thought we executed almost perfectly in the first period,” he said. “In the second period, we had seven turnovers in the neutral zone, and turnovers in the neutral zone lead to bad things. When we execute, we’re pretty good, but when we’re individuals, we’re not good.”

Ducks 2, Blackhawks 1 | Video
With Chicago riddled by injuries, the Ducks wanted to get off to a fast start. Corey Perry did just that, scoring 16 seconds into the game as Anaheim improved to 11-0-1 in its last 12 games against the Blackhawks with a victory at Honda Center.

Perry gave the Ducks a quick lead by playing a carom off the end boards and beating Nikolai Khabibulin from the edge of the crease after a one-timer by Sean O'Donnell zipped past the left post ( 700K ).

Anaheim rookie Jonas Hiller made 20 stops in the Ducks 2-1 win over the Blackhawks on Friday night.

“We knew they had a lot of injuries, so we wanted to come out and get on them right away,” said Perry, who also assisted on Chris Kunitz’ power-play goal with 47 seconds left in the opening period. Kunitz redirected Perry’s 15-foot backhander into the net to make it 2-0 ( 700K ).

Patrick Sharp got Chicago within a goal at 1:56 of the second period, scoring his 21st goal and seventh in eight games from just outside the crease ( 700K ). He has two more goals than he scored in 80 games last season.

The rest of the night belonged to the goaltenders. Khabibulin kept the Blackhawks in the game with 30 saves, many of them spectacular, while Anaheim rookie Jonas Hiller made 20 stops, including a pair during a scramble during the final few seconds ( 700K ).

Blackhawks coach Denis Savard had no complaint with the way his injury-battered team battled in the final game of a three-game swing through Southern California and Phoenix.

“This group comes to work every night,” he said. “Those kids are willing to pay the price and to battle and do the little things. They’re going to be all right.

“The only thing I thought we could have done a little better was drive to the net more. But they’ve got some good, experienced defensemen back there, blocking us out. They know what it takes to win.”

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.

Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff