OTTAWA -- Craig Anderson had his poorest game of the season, but it was still good enough to allow the Ottawa Senators to win.
Anderson allowed a goal after the first period for the first time this season, but the Senators compensated by finding enough offense to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night.
Erik Karlsson, Chris Phillips, Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Neil scored goals for Ottawa (6-3-1), while Peter Regin contributed two assists. Anderson stopped 20 shots, but he was scored on after the opening period for the first time in his nine starts this season. Anderson also allowed more than two goals for the first time in 2012-13.
"I had some bad bounces tonight – that's how [Buffalo] got their goals," Anderson said. "But our guys were doing whatever it takes. Everyone did their little part to help the team win, and we were all pulling on that rope in the same direction."
Tyler Ennis, Jordan Leopold and Jason Pominville scored for Buffalo (3-6-1) which lost its third straight game.
Anderson and the Senators did manage to hold NHL scoring leader Tomas Vanek off the scoresheet for the first time this season. Vanek had at least one point in all eight games he had played and had piled up 10 points in his last four games.
Ottawa struck first on the power play after Adam Pardy was called for holding at 7:48 of the opening period. Karlsson took a pass from Kyle Turris up the left boards. He skated along the blue line and fired a shot from dead center that sailed through traffic and beat Jhonas Enroth to the stick side at 8:15.
The Sabres tied the game 21 seconds later when Anderson bobbled Drew Stafford's shot from the top of the right circle. As the puck fell to the ice, Ennis pounced and sent a quick backhander into the net. Ennis now has 10 points in 10 career games against Ottawa, and points in each of his last six games against the Senators.
It was the second consecutive game in which the Senators gave up a goal within a minute of scoring one. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson acknowledged that these letdowns are an issue.
"It's 60 minutes and you've got to keep playing," Alfredsson said. "You don't want that to happen, because you just gained a lot of momentum and the crowd's into it … then they become really quiet once [the opposition] scores. I'm sure it's something that we'll talk about [on Wednesday]."
Coach Paul MacLean was also upset by the Sabres' quick response.
"We've got to find the right guys to put on the ice after we score a goal," MacLean said. "The experiment is not working with what we're doing. The shifts after a goal, both for and against are always really important. We have to do a better job of being focused during those times. They're big shifts – we need to either maintain momentum or get it back."
The Senators took command with two more goals before the period was over. Regin's clean faceoff win went to Phillips at the point, and the veteran defenseman fired a wrist shot that Enroth appeared to stop, only to have the puck dribble past his left pad and across the goal line at 11:05.
The oldest and youngest Senators teamed up for the third Ottawa goal. Nineteen-year-old Mika Zibanejad stole the puck from Cody Hodgson along the half-wall and dished a gorgeous backhand pass to 40-year-old Alfredsson, who beat Enroth from the slot at 14:15 for a 3-1 lead.
Ottawa made it 4-1 at 8:12 in the second period thanks to some solid work by the third line. Regin dished the puck from the left corner to Neil, who was waiting in the slot, and Neil fired a wrist shot past Enroth's stick.
Buffalo answered 57 seconds later, as Jochen Hecht tried a wraparound and Leopold was able to redirect the puck into the net.
Buffalo cut Ottawa's lead to 4-3 with 6:05 remaining in the third after pressuring the Senators through the first half of the period. Hodgson's shot from the corner was deflected by Pominville and went past beating Anderson.
It was a frustrating night for Enroth, who came in with a 3-0-1 career record against the Senators. Tuesday marked the goaltender's 15th straight appearance without recording a win. Enroth's last victory came against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 26, 2011.
"I know I have to be better," Enroth said. "I have to fight for my crease and stand taller in the net. It's been a long time [since I've had a win]. But I still think I can play in this League and play very well. I'm still trusting myself and I'm not going to give up."
The Sabres have to stop playing from behind, according to Pominville.
"It's so hard – you guys know it's so hard to come back and win games when you're down," Pominville said. "Ottawa's defense clogged up the lanes and they collapse in their zone. [Ottawa] was down a few games before we arrived, but they stuck with it and found a way."