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Sabres miss their mark Roy hits post, sets tone in loss

OTTAWA -- Derek Roy had a sure goal in the opening minutes, and he missed the tap-in. Jason Pominville kicked the puck, and it went right to the opponent's most potent scorer for the tiebreaking goal.

Once again, despite their best efforts, very little went right for the last-place Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres dropped their third straight decision Thursday, as the Ottawa Senators treated a sellout crowd to a 3-2 victory in Scotiabank Place. The Sabres outshot their opponent for the seventh straight game, but they fell to 1-5-1.

No matter how well the Sabres play -- and they played well against the NHL's best team -- they just can't find a way to win.

"We've been playing better," Pominville said. "We've just got to play a little bit better and maybe we'll finally win a game."

Not surprisingly, the Sabres never held the lead. They haven't been ahead before the final buzzer since Oct. 26 in Florida, a span of eight games. For those counting, that's 487 minutes, 35 seconds.

The way the game opened, it's almost logical for people to believe the Sabres will never score first again. Thomas Vanek worked a three-on-two perfectly and threaded a pass to Roy at the top of the crease just three minutes in. The center had a wide-open net, but his tap-in from 5 feet hit the post and rolled away.

"I should have had the first goal," Roy said. "I put the blame on myself. We had some great chances there in the first period, and we didn't capitalize on those."

So, with 6:32 gone, Ottawa became the 14th straight team to score the opening goal against the Sabres. Mike Fisher's pass from the right boards hit Daniel Alfredsson crossing in front, and the captain celebrated his 800th game with his 14th goal.

The Sabres haven't scored first since the opening three games of the season.

"Our biggest nemesis is probably missing the great opportunities early, and it has been," coach Lindy Ruff said. "Those opportunities got to go. If they don't go, we're going to be stuck in the mud for a while."

The Sabres tied the game with 7:30 gone as defenseman Nolan Pratt earned his first point as a Sabre. He dumped a backhand toward the net, and it eluded Randy Robitaille and Wade Redden before popping in the air. Jochen Hecht connected on his swing, knocking the puck past Martin Gerber with 7:30 gone.

The Senators' power play gave them a 2-1 lead with 1:07 to go in the opening period. Again, it left the Sabres shaking their heads at their misfortune. Ryan Miller stopped a point-blank shot by Alfredsson, but Pominville kicked the puck right back to the captain. Alfredsson didn't miss again.

"I just tried to stop it, and it hit my skate and went right to him," Pominville said. "It's just those kind of bounces we're getting right now."

The Sabres took control of the play in the second period, but the Senators still widened their lead to 3-1. Buffalo stormed out of the dressing room and took 13 of the first 15 shots.

The Senators' offense finally fought back with four minutes to go in the period, and it succeeded where the Sabres failed. Mike Fisher completed a long segment of Senators puck possession by barreling into the corner and knocking two Buffalo players away from the puck. He spotted Shean Donovan in front, and the fourth-liner beat Miller with 3:12 remaining in the frame.

A steady stream of penalties by the Senators allowed the Sabres to get back into the game midway through the third period. One second after a five-on-three turned into a five-on-four, Roy's shot from the goal line banked in. There was 8:33 to go, but the Sabres took two penalties in the final three minutes to end their hopes.

"It was a start," Ruff said. "We got two [goals]. That's better than what we've been getting. We've just got to be a little bit better."



Senators 3

Sabres 2

Slap shots: The Sabres drop third straight and fall to 1-5-1 in last seven games. . . . Sabres give up opening goal for 14th straight time. . . . For eighth straight game, Sabres fail to have a lead before final buzzer.

Fast fact: Ottawa becomes fourth team in history to win 15 times in first 17 games. Sabres did it last year.

Next Game: Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 tonight in HSBC Arena.

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