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Sabres shoot down Senators Sabres 2, Senators 1: Miller tops Hasek as shootout decides game between division's best

The Buffalo Sabres didn't embarrass themselves.

This time, they did themselves proud.

After the Ottawa Senators pummeled them the first three times they played, the Sabres took them into a shootout Saturday night before dismissing them, 2-1, in HSBC Arena.

Sabres rookie Thomas Vanek was the only one to score in the shootout, executing a brilliant pump fake and swirling stick move before sending his shot over Dominik Hasek's glove. Ryan Miller, meanwhile, stopped Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson and forced Dany Heatley into not getting off a shot.

"After a couple saves, I caught myself chanting 'U-S-A,' " Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, referring to the chorus directed at Miller in Thursday night's victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. "He made terrific saves on all three. All night he gave our club a lot of confidence."

The Senators had never trailed in their three prior meetings and had outscored the Sabres, 21-5.

But this time, the Sabres were more than competitive in winning their fifth straight game.

"That was a pretty good effort right from the start," Buffalo co-captain Chris Drury said. "We've come a long way. The beatings they put on us were the low point, but we responded and stuck together, and to come out with a game like that is pretty nice to see."

Sabres sniper Ales Kotalik brought the crowd of 17,451 to its feet when he beat Hasek in the first period, and the home squad didn't blink after Senators center Bryan Smolinski tied the game in the second.

"That was a fun game for us," Kotalik said. "We knew we were going to need our top game to beat Ottawa with all the scoring they have. We showed we can play with them. This game was a pretty good statement for us."

Miller made 28 saves, including five in overtime. Hasek stopped 28 shots, just one in sudden death.

Hasek, who won two Hart and six Vezina trophies in his nine seasons with Buffalo, made only his second regular-season appearance in Buffalo since he was traded. The last time he stopped by was March 2002, a nightmare performance with the Detroit Red Wings in which he allowed four goals on 22 shots and was pulled after two periods.

The Dominator was sharper this time, even though the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer was making his third start in four nights.

There was little he could do, however, to deny Kotalik's goal at 12:11 of the first period.

With the teams skating four-on-four, Kotalik buried a one-timer from the left dot. Jochen Hecht set up the play by battling for the puck along the right boards and made a long pass to the big shooter. Hasek couldn't slide over to cover the near post in time.

The goal was Kotalik's team-leading 21st. It tied his career high in just 52 games. He needed 68 games to score 20 in his rookie campaign in 2002-03. He also has a career-best 21 assists.

The Sabres had chances to inflate their lead before the intermission but couldn't make good on a couple of power plays. Maxim Afinogenov nearly scored when Vanek made a sensational between-the-legs and behind-the-back pass from the near left post that glanced off Hasek and went to Afinogenov in the slot.

"I thought that chance was going to come back to bite us, but it didn't," Ruff said.

The Senators capitalized on a fortuitous bounce to tie the game 4:49 into the second period.

Sabres defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick and center Paul Gaustad rammed Senators winger Peter Schaefer into the end boards, but the puck trickled out to the left side of the crease. Miller, playing the other post, was oblivious, and Smolinski sent it home.


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