OTTAWA -- Coach Lindy Ruff told anyone and everyone the past two days that nothing was more important in the Buffalo-Ottawa rivalry than special teams. Power plays and penalty killing helped the Sabres win the first meeting of the season, and the units allowed the Senators to storm back to win the next three.
Make that four.
Special teams again decided a Sabres-Senators game Wednesday, and that was bad news for the team that might be better off declining penalties. The Senators scored three power-play goals and added another short-handed, and Dany Heatley had a hat trick to lift Ottawa to a 6-3 victory in Scotiabank Place.
"We have no one to blame or point fingers at other than our own special teams," Sabres co-captain Chris Drury said.
The loss gets pinned on the Sabres' power play, which went 0 for its first 4. The most damaging sequence came during the second period, which began tied at zero. The Sabres had the man advantage for 6:20 of the opening 10 1/2 minutes but wound up in a 2-0 hole.
"I think we've got a bad power play. We can't score a goal, and we can't move the puck," Sabres right wing Maxim Afinogenov said. "They scored on our power play once, too. It's frustrating."
The Sabres didn't record a shot during their first 4:20 of power-play
time in the second. That negative energy allowed the score to balloon to 4-0 before the period was over. Ottawa scored its third and fourth goals on the power play.
Afinogenov finally snapped the Sabres' power-play skid with 4:24 left and the outcome long decided. The goal made the score 6-2 and moved the Sabres to just 5 for 36 on the power play in the past six games.
The loss emphatically snapped the Sabres' four-game winning streak. The Senators improved to 5-0-1 in the past six games but remain 15 points behind the Sabres in the Northeast Division.
Despite getting eliminated by the Sabres in the second round of the playoffs last season, Ottawa has plenty of confidence when facing the division leaders. The Sabres have only eight regulation losses, and half have come against Ottawa.
"I don't know what it is," said Heatley, who scored all of his goals in the second period. "Maybe it's the playoffs last year, maybe it was the way they got off to a hot start, but we know how explosive they could be and how dangerous their three lines could be."
Paul Gaustad and Jason Pominville joined Afinogenov in finally solving Ray Emery, who stopped 33 shots. He turned aside all 19 he faced in the first period.
The game's first goal, by Heatley, came short-handed 4:53 into the second period and stole some pep from the Sabres. He had a one-on-one against Brian Campbell, and the Sabres defenseman blocked Heatley's first two shots. But the former All-Star Game MVP batted the second carom out of the air and past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
"That's a tough one to take," Campbell said. "I can't play that any better."
Heatley made it 2-0 about five minutes later, scoring off a rebound seconds after leaving the penalty box. He fed defenseman Tom Preissing for a power-play goal with 12:20 gone in the second, then got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 19,777 with his third goal minutes later. Wade Redden's shot rang off the post, and Heatley banked the rebound into the net off Miller's stick. The referees confirmed the goal by replay as hats rained down.
Gaustad beat Emery with 4:55 gone in the third period. The Senators answered less than two minutes later with a breakaway goal by Peter Schaefer to make it 5-1. With the fans calling for a sixth goal so they could receive a free slice of pizza courtesy of a local restaurant promotion, Redden fired a slap shot by Miller with 6:45 left.
Pominville made the final a little more respectable on paper when he scored with 51.5 seconds to play.