The mightiest team in the Eastern Conference got a lead on the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night.
The lead held for all of nine seconds.
That's how long it took the Sabres to win a faceoff, hit a post and net a rebound for the first of four unanswered goals against the first-place Ottawa Senators.
Buffalo came away with a 4-1 victory, a brand new 20-goal scorer and a promising start to the biggest road stand of the season.
"It was important for us to start off this road trip (with a win)," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "This is probably the toughest road trip any team in the Eastern Conference has to go through."
The Sabres played confident defense and energetic offense, looking like a team focused on the task at hand rather than one preoccupied with the prospect of upcoming road games at Philadelphia, Colorado, Dallas and Boston.
Winger J.P. Dumont reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his young career, and goalie Dominik Hasek had a handful of spectacular clutch plays among his 29 saves. The Sabres' special teams worked at peak performance, as Buffalo was 5 of 5 killing off penalties and the Sabres' power play, officially 1 of 3, actually produced two goals.
"For a while we struggled on the power play, and for a few games (now) we've scored at least one power-play goal a game," said Dumont, whose second goal came on the man advantage.
"(Our recent success should) tell the other team they're going to have to watch out, and they're going to have to play disciplined against us, because we're going to score on the power play."
Before the teams combined for two goals in the first minute of the second period, they checked their way through a defensive-minded first. The most dramatic event of the first period came 45 seconds into the game, when Andreas Dackell used an ounce of aim and a pound of power in trying to dump the puck into the Sabres' zone. The result was a shattered partition next to Buffalo's bench and a rain of glass around backup goalie Martin Biron.
Biron was unhurt, but he left to shake the shards out of his equipment and did not return to the bench until there were just seven minutes left in the first. He didn't miss much by way of offense, as the teams combined for only 11 shots on goal in the opening period.
Then, somebody flipped the switch, and all that was missing from the first 20 minutes suddenly materialized in the next 50 seconds. Ottawa got on the board first, as Shawn McEachern netted a wrist shot 41 seconds into the second to give the Senators a fleeting edge.
But before the Corel Centre crowd could say "whiplash," Vladimir Tsyplakov intercepted a pass right off the draw, skated down his left wing and fired a laser off the post to the right of goalie Patrick Lalime. With the goalie still covering the left side, the puck ricocheted directly to charging right winger Erik Rasmussen. Lalime never stood a chance.
Less than four minutes later, Dumont scored his first goal of the night to give Buffalo the lead for good. A cross-checking penalty to Senators center Radek Bonk had expired five seconds earlier, and Bonk had not yet set himself in his defensive zone when Chris Gratton sent a pass through the slot to Dumont. Although Dumont's shallow one-timer did not count as a power play goal, credit the patience and positioning of the Sabres' special team unit with making it happen.
Dumont's second goal of the game and 20th of the season came 19 seconds into Buffalo's next power play. Jason York was off for slashing when the Sabres dumped the puck into Ottawa's zone. Lalime tried to play it behind the boards, but the puck took a strange bounce, coming out to Dumont on the right wing. Lalime was back in the crease for Dumont's shot, but the puck bounced off Senators defenseman Wade Redden and past the goaltender.
Tsyplakov added the final goal on a breakaway late in the third period.
Defenseman Jason Woolley, who suffered a minor knee injury in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, skated in Tuesday's pregame warm-up but sat out the main event. Brian Campbell played in his place . . . Winger Eric Boulton was the Sabres' sole healthy scratch.