Post-game report: Ottawa 3 Buffalo 1
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Ray Emery stopped 28 shots to help the Ottawa Senators clinch a playoff spot with a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
Daniel Alfredsson, Antoine Vermette and Patrick Eaves scored for the Eastern Conference-leading Senators, who won their fourth straight to improve to 12-1-1 in their last 14 games. Ottawa moved 27 points ahead of ninth-place Montreal, which has 13 games remaining.
Daniel Briere scored the lone goal for Buffalo, which has lost four straight, matching the team's longest losing streak this season.
Buffalo, outscored 16-6 during its skid, also dropped to 1-5 against Ottawa this season - the Sabres' lone win coming in a shootout last month.
The Senators took control when Alfredsson and Vermette scored goals on consecutive shots 2:24 apart in the first five minutes of the game.
The Sabres, however, proved unlucky, twice coming a fraction of an inch from rallying back.
With Buffalo down 2-1, the Sabres' Mike Grier poked a loose puck at the right post beneath Emery's glove, the shot appearing to trickle over the goal line in the opening minute of the third period.
Referee Kevin Pollock initially ruled a goal but it was overturned after officials required five minutes to review the play. Video replays showed the puck never completely crossed the line before Ottawa's Brian Pothier fished it out.
The Sabres failed to convert a power-play opportunity minutes later, and Eaves put Ottawa up 3-1 at the 4:56 mark. Set up in the slot by Jason Spezza, Eaves snapped a shot over Ryan Miller's right shoulder.
Buffalo also had a close call midway through the second period when J.P. Dumont deflected Brian Campbell's point shot only to have the puck hit off the left post, roll along the length of the crease and bounce out off the other post.
Emery was sharp in preserving the victory - his 11th this month since taking over the starting duties in place of Dominik Hasek, who continues to nurse a groin injury suffered during the Turin Olympics.
Emery's best stop came midway through the third period when he kicked out his left pad to foil Briere, who was set up on the doorstep.
Notes: The three goals gave Ottawa 274 this season, matching a franchise record set in 2000-01. ... Sabres D Jay McKee returned for the start of the second period after being struck across the nose by Bryan Smolinski's shot midway through the first period. ... Spezza returned after missing one game with a hip-pointer. ... Senators D Filip Novak, called up from AHL Binghamton on Thursday, made his NHL debut. Ottawa is down two defensemen, Zdeno Chara (hand) and Anton Volchenkov (head), both hurt in a 5-2 win against Pittsburgh on Tuesday.