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Sharper Sabres Lose Sixth

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
For three consecutive games, the Buffalo Sabres had played less than their best hockey of the season and walked away the victors. Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened when Buffalo squared off with the Ottawa Senators for the fourth time this season.

Buffalo put together one of their most complete performances during the month of December but ended the night with a 3-1 loss to the Senators despite their best efforts. Jason Spezza scored a pair of power play goals and added an assist on Dany Heatley's marker in the first period to lead the way for a Senators team that has handed Buffalo three of the team's six losses this season.

Buffalo is still searching for its second win against a team they eliminated from the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs in five games.

"My fear [before the game] was that they would beat us in special teams," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "And they beat us on special teams again tonight."

The talented Senators power play is almost twice as effective when they are playing the Eastern Conferences top team. When facing the Sabres, Ottawa has scored six goals in 27 opportunities for a 22.2% conversion rate, compared to a 15.5% rate of success against the rest of the league.

Buffalo rallied to within a goal with Jochen Hecht's eighth goal of the season with six minutes remaining in the second period but failed to close the gap.

Missed opportunities haunted the Sabres locker room following the game.

"They basically have the same team as last year in the playoffs," said Derek Roy, who centers one of Buffalo's two power-play units that went a combined one-for-six on the night. "We worked hard and the effort was there, the puck just wouldn't hit the back of the net tonight."

"We shot a lot of pucks and put a lot of rubber on net, but we couldn't find a way to score," said Jason Pominville. "You have to give [Senators goaltender Ray Emery] credit and we just have to be even sharper the next time."

Emery, the losing netminder during the aforementioned playoff series, was rock-solid in net for the Senators, stopping 35-of-36 shots. Ryan Miller countered with 26 saves and allowed just one even-strength goal.

A turnover by Thomas Vanek in Buffalo's zone led to Ottawa's first goal.

Spezza intercepted Vanek's clearing attempt at the blueline and swung the puck to Andrej Meszaros for the point shot, which crept through Miller's pads before being assisted over the goal line by Heatley at 5:42 of the first.

Camped in front of the net on a Senators power play, Spezza scored 18th goal of the season and fourth in as many games against Buffalo after one-timing Tom Preissing's pass from behind the net at 17:29 of the first.

Hecht cut the Senators lead to a single goal with his eighth goal of the season with six minutes remaining in the second. With a Buffalo man-advantage, Hecht redirected Brian Campbell's point shot over Emery's left pad for his first power-play goal of the season at 14:11 to make the score 2-1.

Spezza scored his second power-play goal of the night after firing into a wide-open net on a five-on-three advantage to regain the two-goal Ottawa lead at 2:31 of the third.
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