The "Em-ree, Em-ree" chants were at full-throated levels Wednesday night in HSBC Arena as a sellout crowd used every chance to taunt Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery, the most reviled opponent of Sabres fans.
Playing just his fourth game of the season -- and first in two weeks -- Emery made 27 saves but took the loss in Buffalo's 4-2 victory.
"I've practiced a lot this year," cracked Emery, who has been unseated as Ottawa's No. 1 goalie by Martin Gerber. "Even though we lost, that's disappointing but I love playing and this reminded me how much I love playing. It was good to be able to battle."
Emery, a mainstay as the Senators eliminated Buffalo last year en route to the Stanley Cup finals, has struggled to return from offseason wrist surgery and is 2-2 with a 3.27 goals-against average. Meanwhile, Gerber (13-2) leads the NHL in wins and has a 1.85 GAA.
Emery was beaten by Michael Ryan after just 86 seconds of play and was in a 3-0 hole after one period, with Ales Kotalik's 40-foot wrist shot at 9:29 the only soft goal. But Emery made several other saves to keep Ottawa in the game, including a stop on Thomas Vanek's clean breakaway.
"I'd obviously like [the Kotalik goal] back but other than that they made some good plays off the rush," Emery said. "Definitely the first period was what sank our ship. After that, it was just kind of them playing well enough to maintain the lead."
Said Ottawa coach John Paddock: "Other than the Kotalik goal . . . I don't have any thoughts or complaints."
Paddock put Emery back in the nets with the Senators in the middle of a stretch of three games in four nights. Paddock certainly has a good feel for drama and recent history, given Emery's brawl last year with Martin Biron and Andrew Peters and his work in ousting Buffalo from the Eastern Conference finals.
"Marty has been phenomenal and Ray hasn't had a chance," Ottawa center Jason Spezza said. "When you get offseason surgery, it's tough to come back from. The other guy is playing great and there's nothing you can do about it."
For his part, Emery said he didn't take any added significance in the fact the opponent was the Sabres or that he was the fans' favorite target.
"I wasn't so concerned about the team I was playing against because I hadn't been in there in a while," Emery said. "I just wanted to do what I know how to do but they definitely didn't make it easy on me."
As he did in Monday's 4-2 win in Montreal, Paddock broke up his top scoring line of Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley to start the game. Alfredsson moved to the wing with Antoine Vermette and Mike Fisher while Chris Kelly joined Spezza and Heatley.
"We knew we wouldn't stay together the whole time and [John] told us that in training camp," Spezza said. "It was a case where we won so many games off the [start of the season] that he didn't feel like switching."
In part because of the early deficit, Paddock put his big guns back together in the second period and they produced both Ottawa goals. The lines were also stirred because Patrick Eaves left late in the first period with a separated shoulder after a collision with Buffalo's Brian Campbell.
Drew Stafford has scored in back-to-back games for the first time this season and the third time of his career. . . . Ryan's goal snapped his 20-game regular season drought that dated to March 9 against Minnesota. . . . Ryan Miller's assist on Kotalik's goal was the fifth of his NHL career and his first since Feb. 6 at Atlanta.