Team confidence paid dividends for the Ottawa Senators Saturday night as they beat the Northeast Division leading Buffalo Sabres 5-3.
Daniel Alfredsson had two goals and an assist and Filip Kuba had a four-point night for Ottawa as they extended their winning streak to three games.
Kuba chipped in with his first goal of the season, to go along with three assists for Ottawa (11-6-3). Chris Kelly and Milan Michalek, with the game winner, also scored for the Senators in front of 17,206 at Scotiabank Place.
Brian Elliott replaced injured Ottawa starter Pascal Leclaire to start the third and stopped 16 shots to pick up the win.
"I don?t know how fast my heart was going when I got in there," said Elliott. "The guys played really well in front of me. I felt I played pretty good and obviously they spotted me that lead and that helped as well."
Thomas Vanek, Patrick Kaleta and Jason Pominville scored for the Sabres (12-6-2). Former Senators goalie Patrick Lalime faced 26 shots in just his third start of the season and took the loss.
Earlier in the season many questioned Ottawa's offensive abilities, but in the last three games the Senators have scored 14 goals.
"I think it's confidence and a little bit of luck," said Alfredsson. "We're playing with more confidence and you can feel it in the locker room. When you score five like tonight you've got to be happy."
After a sluggish start to the game, Buffalo got on the board with less than a minute in the first on the power play. Parked at the side of the net, Vanek picked up a rebound and beat Leclaire shortside. Buffalo went 1-for-7 on the power play.
The Senators responded with a power play goal of their own in the opening minute of the second period as Kuba fired a shot from the blue-line.
"I thought we came out real solid in the second period," said Senators coach Cory Clouston. "The first 12 to 13 minutes we played really well. We did a lot of good things defensively and that created offensive opportunities."
Ottawa took the lead at 8:14 of the second when Alfredsson scored his seventh of the season on a quick wrist shot that beat Lalime.
The Senators had plenty of other chances as the Sabres took four minor penalties in the period, including a two-man advantage for 66 seconds, but were unable to capitalize. The Senators finished the game 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
"I think we took a couple penalties that we didn't need to take," said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. "That gave them a little bit of momentum and they carried it from there."
Elliott started the third for the Senators after Leclaire left the game with a lower-body injury as a result of a collision in the second with Jochen Hecht. Hecht fell over Leclaire and afterwards the goalie seemed to favour his left leg. He finished with 24 saves.
After the game Clouston said Leclaire would be re-evaluated on Sunday, but was hopeful it was nothing serious.
Ottawa made it 3-1 as Kelly tipped Matt Carkner's point shot and Michalek picked up his tenth of the season scoring on an odd-man rush.
"I don't think we even need to focus on goaltending," Ruff said. "I think the focus has to fall on our five-on-five play. That four-on-three that they scored against was just a fact that two of our forwards didn't get back."
Then after Alfredsson made it 5-1, Kaleta and Pominville scored less than two minutes apart to pull Buffalo to within two with just over nine minutes remaining.
Chris Neil was handed a cross-checking and slashing penalty with 4:11 remaining in regulation, but Buffalo was unable to capitalize.
"We came out strong at the start of the period and then we took the penalty at the end," said Ottawa's Mike Fisher. "But we stayed composed and we stuck with it and it was good for us."
The Senators will look to make it four in a row when they host the Washington Capitals Monday night.