Ottawa Senators\' Jason Spezza (19) scores on Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Dean Duprey
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Jarkko Ruutu added another chapter to the bitter rivalry between the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres.
He bit the gloved thumb of Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters during a first-period altercation Tuesday night, overshadowing Buffalo's 4-2 win. "It's a pretty goofy thing that happened," Peters said. "It's not the injury, it's the incident. Just the fact that that happened it's unfortunate. It's not good for the game of hockey."
Ruutu denied biting Peters, and instead accused the Sabres player of gouging him in the eye.
"Nothing happened there," Ruutu said. "His fingers were by my mouth but I didn't bite him."
With a bandage wrapped around his right thumb following the game, Peters said Ruutu broke his skin while biting him through the glove. Peters started the skirmish by rubbing his glove into Ruutu's face behind the play. Replays then showed Ruutu using his teeth to tear Peters' glove off of his hand.
Peters immediately began shaking his hand and doubled over in pain clutching his thumb before heading to the Buffalo bench where he was attended to by team trainers.
Peters was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for sparking the altercation, while Ruutu was not penalized.
NHL officials did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages left by The Associated Press.
Derek Roy had a goal and two assists and Ryan Miller stopped 31 shots in helping Buffalo to its third straight victory.
The Sabres and Senators have been involved in plenty of heated games in the past.
Two years ago, Ottawa's Chris Neil sparked a brawl when he blind-sided former Sabres co-captain Chris Drury. In 2006, Buffalo beat Ottawa in a five-game second-round playoff series, and the Senators knocked out the Sabres in five games the following post-season.
Thomas Vanek, with an empty-netter in the final minute, and Drew Stafford had a goal and assist each, while Matt Ellis also scored for the Sabres, who hung on after nearly squandering a 3-0 lead.
Jason Spezza scored both goals for the Senators 32 seconds apart in the second period. Spezza had an opportunity to cap the comeback, but was robbed with 4:25 left when his slapshot from the left circle was snagged by Miller.
The Senators dropped to 1-5-1 during an eight-game road trip that ends at Boston on Thursday. Ottawa also dropped to 1-12-3 in its past 16 games away from home.
"It's tough. We're struggling," said Spezza, who has five goals and five assists in his past eight games. "We're in other teams' buildings and things aren't going our way. ... It hasn't been a fun trip."
Ellis' goal, scored 15 seconds in, certainly didn't help, Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said.
"For a team that's obviously fragile right now, that's not the way to start," Hartsburg said.
Except for the second-period letdown, the Sabres were pleased with how they finished. The win also allowed them to build off a convincing 4-2 win at Boston on Saturday, in which Buffalo snapped the Bruins 10-game win streak.
"Let's hope we can keep stringing these together and getting a good feeling about what it means to play as a team," Miller said.
Miller was relieved after giving up a soft goal to Spezza, who scored his first goal from the right corner by banking in a shot off the goalie's glove. Spezza then cut the lead to 3-2 by beating Miller through the legs on a wide-open breakaway.
Miller made up for it with his glove save in the third period.
"Two's enough for him," Miller said. "It's good to get the win and cap it off with bouncing back after a pretty bad goal."
Notes: Ottawa, which hasn't played at home since a 5-4 win over Dallas on Dec. 20, has been on the road because the team's arena was used for the just-concluded World Junior Hockey Championship. ... Senators are 4-13-3 on the road this season after winning 20 or more in each of their previous five seasons. ... Ellis' goal was the Sabres' fastest to open a game since Vladimir Tsyplakov scored 10 seconds in at Montreal on Nov. 25, 2000.