Goaltender makes 22 saves for Ottawa and, strong in defence, Senators shut Sabres out even with their key players on injury list.
The Ottawa Senators beat Buffalo 2-0 on Wednesday to end the Sabres' four-game winning streak. Goaltender Brian Elliott, making his 13th consecutive start in place of the injured Pascal Leclaire, made 22 saves to earn the shutout, while Alexandre Picard and Mike Fisher scored to give the Sens a much-needed lift.
Ottawa (17-12-4) learned earlier in the day they will be without Jason Spezza for the next six to eight weeks after the centre injured a knee on Monday. "All over the ice we were just buzzing around and they really didn't have anything in the first period," Elliott said. "All the guys, especially defensively, we just kept everything to the outside. "When all they have is shots from the boards, that makes it a lot easier on me."
The Senators are also without Chris Neil and Shean Donovan due to knee injuries, and are having to rely heavily on goaltender Elliott. The 24-year-old Canadian has had two shut outs in his last four games and three in just 41 career games. On Wednesday he was up against Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who leads the NHL in goals against average. Miller finished with 26 saves but was beaten when Picard converted a snap shot at 18:23 of the first period.
Fisher followed up on a shot with less than two minutes to go in the game for his 15th goal of the season as the Senators broke a four-game winning streak for the Northeast-leading Sabres. "Just because we're missing some key guys we don't want to try and step up and do too much, either. "Just stick to our good team game," Fisher said. "Doesn't matter how we do it but we got the job done." Ottawa, who also beat the Sabres 5-3 on November 21, are now four points behind Buffalo in the standings, but are five points clear of Montreal Canadiens who lost 2-1 to Atlantic Division title hopefuls New Jersey Devils. Patrik Elias scored the Devils' winner.
Florida Panthers narrowed the gap to Atlanta Thrashers, the second-placed team in the Southeast Division, thanks to a 4-3 home triumph. Atlanta fought level from 3-0 down but Michael Frolik's 10th goal of the season proved decisive. Chicago Blackhawks remain the top dogs in the Central Division after a 3-0 home win over St Louis Blues. They never looked back after first-period goals from Troy Brouwer and Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa made sure in the second period.
The New York Islanders overcame fellow Atlantic strugglers New York Rangers 2-1 while the side with the league's worst wins record, Carolina Hurricanes, secured their eighth win of the campaign with a 5-3 triumph over Dallas Stars. Petr Prucha's brace helped Phoenix Coyotes to a 6-3 victory at Toronto Maple Leafs. * With agencies