Entering play, the Eastern Conference leading Sabres had lost a season high three straight including a 3-2 shootout loss at Boston on Martin Luther King Day. But with their lead for the conference's top seed suddenly down to six points, Lindy Ruff's club responded with a 6-3 victory over the same Bruins back home at HSBC Arena tonight to get back on the winning track.
With the game knotted at three thanks to rookie Phil Kessel's second of the game less than a minute into the final period, the Sabres responded by getting the next three. All Star starting defenseman Brian Campbell put them ahead to stay with 9:55 left and Maxim Afinogenov made it 5-3 when he connected for his 21st of the season with 5:16 remaining. Daniel Paille hit the empty net to propel the Sabres to their 32nd triumph of the season, giving them 68 points. Eight better than both New Jersey and Atlanta.
It was important for Ruff's club to get the 'W.' They are clearly not the same team without physical D Henrik Tallinder. So hopefully, the time off starting next week will help.
While they have gone through their first tough stretch, Ottawa has surpassed Montreal in the Northeast and is up to 56 points, good for fourth overall in the East. The Senators are still without top two centers Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher. Just wait till they return as now Dany Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson are on fire. In fact, during their season high fifth straight win, Alfredsson notched the winning goal for the fourth game in a row, becoming the first player to accomplish this rare feat since Montreal's Newsy Lalonde turned the trick back in 1921 when he got the winner in five consecutive contests. The most encouraging aspect for the suddenly sizzling Sens is that they're doing this without their best playmaking pivot Spezza. Just wait till he gets back. Even more encouraging is that recent pickup Mike Comrie is fitting in and already has four goals and three assists in seven games since coming over from Phoenix. Not bad. Meanwhile, starting netminder Ray Emery has flown under the radar winning 20 of the club's 27 games while providing solid numbers including a 2.53 GAA to go with a .919 save percentage and three shutouts. If there is a team to watch, it's this one. And they could be a team that nobody wants to deal with in an opening round.