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Vanek's hat trick leads Sabres past Senators

by Brian Compton

Thomas Vanek scored three times for his first NHL hat trick as the Buffalo Sabres moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Watch Vanek complete the hat trick
Following a scoreless first period, Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff preached patience, knowing things would turn positive if his players simply continued to get pucks deep in the Ottawa zone.
The Sabres did just that, and, because they did, they’re back in a playoff spot.
Thomas Vanek had his first NHL hat trick and Ryan Miller made 25 saves as the Sabres climbed into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with an impressive 5-1 win over the Senators at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night.
“I don’t know if we can play better,” Ruff gushed after his team moved past Boston, which lost at home to Carolina. “We were real good with the puck. We put the puck in places that put them under a lot of stress. We were able to create a lot of pressure in their zone. We didn’t want to play in our end. All four lines did a real good job.”
It was a night to remember for Vanek, who signed a seven-year, $50 million deal with the Sabres last summer after the Edmonton Oilers signed him to an offer sheet. His three-goal night helped the Sabres improve to 7-0-2 over their last nine games.
''It's great. I'm really happy for him,'' Miller said. ''Earlier in the year, he was searching for it and he's had a lot of pressure thrown on his plate. I think as the team has settled down, he's settled down, too, and I think he feels that he can go out there and score some goals now. He's putting that puck on the net like he needs to. I think he was cutting it a little close earlier in the year, and he's doing a great job just getting those pucks there.''
Vanek has the only goal through the game’s first 40 minutes. He scored 3:44 into the second period ( 700K ) when he ripped a slap shot past Sens goalie Ray Emery to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead.

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Vanek scored again on the power play 26 seconds into the third when he came out from behind the net and stuffed a shot past Emery to make it 2-0 ( 700K ). Brian Campbell assisted on each of Vanek’s first two tallies.
''The defense was doing a great job of getting the puck to the net and it helped me,'' Vanek said. ''I'm always in front. It's been like that for the last four or five games.''
Randy Robitaille cut the deficit in half and ruined Miller’s shutout bid with 16:03 remaining with a power-play goal ( 700K ). But Clarke MacArthur scored his seventh goal of the season less than a minute later ( 700K ) as the Sabres quickly restored their two-goal lead.
''The difference to me has been smarts,'' Campbell said. ''I think our forecheck has been creating so much and that's as a five-man unit, not just the forwards going in there. We're trying to forecheck as D and have tighter gaps and support the forwards on the offense a lot more.''
Vanek completed his hat trick with a power-play goal at 16:02 ( 700K ), as Buffalo capitalized on a two-man advantage. Jason Pominville made it 5-1 just 54 seconds later ( 700K ).

“Thomas’ strongest asset is in front of the net,” Ruff said. “You see him score on a big shot like he did on the first one, but he’s got a great shot. When he uses it, there’s a lot of times when he can put it in. He alone made a difference in the game.”
The loss was Ottawa’s first in three games since Dany Heatley returned from a shoulder injury. The Senators mustered only 11 shots through the first two periods and were outshot 39-26 overall. Their top line of Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson was held scoreless after combining for 15 points in Saturday’s 6-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
''We got outplayed throughout the game,'' Alfredsson said. ''They got 40 shots on us in our building, and you're not going to win too many games when you give up as much as we did.''

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

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