BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bobby Butler didn't care how many times he and his Ottawa Senators had shots bounce off the goal post. So long as the last one went in, he was happy.
After having two of his shots hit the post, the rookie forward scored the decisive goal in the fifth round of the shootout in a 3-2 win Saturday night over the slumping Buffalo Sabres, who fell to 1-5-1 in their past seven games.
"After a couple of posts, I was feeling it," Butler said. "And that's why coach maybe gave me the chance. It felt good to get the two points."
The Senators improved to 5-1-1 in their past seven games by essentially ringing in the new year in a game in which they unofficially hit six posts — the Senators say it was eight.
"Oh yeah, I've heard the ding-dong quite a few times," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "That just means you're shooting the puck and getting opportunities."
And MacLean acknowledged he rewarded Butler with a shootout attempt based on how well he played through 65 minutes.
"Bobby had worked real hard and he's hit a lot of posts. And it was good to see him have some patience and put it in," MacLean.
Butler sealed it after each team scored twice in the shootout, and after Buffalo's Drew Stafford didn't fool Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson in trying to jam in his attempt on the short side.
Driving to the net, Butler faked several shots to get Jhonas Enroth on his heels. Enroth eventually backed up inside his own net, allowing Butler to easily flip it over the fallen goalie.
Brad Boyes and Paul Gaustad scored and Jordan Leopold had two assists for Buffalo. Enroth was by far the busiest goalie in stopping 44 shots, including getting his shoulder up to get a piece of Jason Spezza's snap shot from in close with 12 seconds left in overtime.
"I'm really upset that we lost this game," said Enroth, who is winless in his past five (0-4-1).
He was most upset after failing to secure the victory in the third round of the shootout, when he allowed Daniel Alfredsson's shot to trickle in through his legs.
"A bad bounce for us," Enroth said.
The banged-up Sabres continue to struggle with a patchwork roster that was missing five regulars. The latest injured player is veteran defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, who's out indefinitely after sustaining an upper-body injury in a 3-1 loss at Washington on Friday.
After Boyes scored on the power play four minutes in, the rest of the goals came during a 4:20 span early in the second period.
Carkner tied the game at 1-1 by driving in from the right point and snapping a shot past Enroth. After Gaustad tipped in Leopold's shot from the right boards, the Senators tied it 6:15 into the frame when Neil converted on a partial break by faking a forehand shot and beating Enroth with a backhander.
The Senators were coming off a 4-3 overtime win over Calgary on Friday, in a game Ottawa rallied from a 3-0 deficit.
Ottawa proved once again it's not how a team starts but how it finishes. The Senators never had the lead until the shootout was over.
"It's a strength to always come back, but obviously we want to play with the lead a couple of times, too," said defenceman Erik Karlsson, who had a shot from inside the blue line sneak through a crowd in front only to hit the crossbar. "You can't let the posts frustrate you and I think they didn't do that today and that's why we stuck to it."
NOTES: Senators D Sergei Gonchar was held out for precautionary reasons after being struck in the head by a puck during the pre-game warmup. MacLean had no update on Gonchar's status following the game ... The Sabres called up defenceman T.J. Brennan from AHL Rochester to replace Ehrhoff ... Sabres C Nathan Gerbe returned after missing 10 games with a concussion. That made rookie RW Zack Kassian a healthy scratch.... Senators centre Jason Spezza failed to register a point in Buffalo for the first time in 15 games. It's a streak and which he had 13 goals and 16 assists dating to Feb. 22, 2007 ... The Senators return home to face the New Jersey Devils on Monday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).