Buffalo Sabres center Michael Ryan, center, celebrates his first NHL goal, between Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, left, and goalie Ray Emery during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Don Heupel
BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Buffalo Sabres don't mind the underdog role this season. That's good, since they currently have little choice in the matter.
The Sabres, last season's President's Trophy winner, entered the game two points out of last place in the Eastern Conference and 17 points behind league-leading Ottawa, but received a big boost with a solid 4-2 win over the Senators on Wednesday night.
Derek Roy and Drew Stafford each had a goal and assist, and Buffalo scored three times in the first period to win for the second consecutive time after losing three straight.
The game marked the first meeting of the teams in Buffalo since Daniel Alfredsson's overtime goal in Game 5 of last season's Eastern Conference finals sent the Senators to the Stanley Cup finals.
"We know that teams gun for teams when they are at the top," Roy said. "So it's pretty obvious - we're at the bottom of the standings and they're at the top."
The Sabres have started fast the past two games, scoring three times in the opening period in each. Not coincidentally, they won both times, something they haven't done much this season after posting a league-high 53 victories a year ago.
"We've got two in a row now, and we have to keep this rolling," Roy said.
Ales Kotalik and Michael Ryan also scored, and Ryan Miller, making his seventh consecutive start, finished with 27 saves - 15 in the second period - for Buffalo. He was helped in the third when Senators centre Chris Kelly hit the post following a deke with 13:30 left while Ottawa was short-handed.
"It was a good start for us," Miller said. "We've had to fight back a lot lately, but tonight we did a good job establishing our game early. We were hungry."
Alfredsson and Dany Heatley scored for the Senators, who have lost two of three. Ottawa, which has an NHL-high 32 points, lost for just the fourth time overall.
"The games that we've played against them all three years, whoever's doing well doesn't matter," Heatley said. "The games have been intense and tough. They jumped on us early and we couldn't recover from that 3-0 lead."
The Senators also lost two-way forward Patrick Eaves for what coach John Paddock said was "not short term" after he separated his shoulder colliding awkwardly with Buffalo defenceman Brian Campbell late in the first period.
The Sabres peppered Ottawa goalie Ray Emery with 14 shots in the first period. Ryan scored his first just 1:26 in, and Roy capped the flurry with his seventh of the season with 38 seconds left.
Ottawa responded with a pair of goals in a two-minute span midway through the second period to cut the deficit to 3-2. Alfredsson scored his 16th of the season, capitalizing on a giveaway by Buffalo defenceman Henrik Tallinder, and Heatley followed with his 10th while the Senators were on the power play.
Buffalo regained its two-goal lead when Stafford converted Thomas Vanek's slick pass with 2:36 left in the middle period.
Emery, making just his second start in eight games and fourth overall, allowed four or more goals for the third time. He finished with 27 saves and lost his second straight.
"The first period is what sank our ship," Emery said. "After that they just played well enough to maintain their lead."
The Sabres were bolstered by the return of centre Tim Connolly, who came in tied for second on the team with 12 points. Connolly had missed five games because of a strained oblique.
Notes: Buffalo will wrap up a three-game homestand Friday against Montreal. ... Senators forward Randy Robitaille didn't play because of a bruised left hand. ... Stafford sustained an upper-body injury in the third period and didn't return, but coach Lindy Ruff said it was nothing serious. ... Miller earned his fifth career assist on Kotalik's goal in the first period.