OTTAWA, Ontario – Last in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres can't catch a break.
Milan Michalek scored his second goal of the game with 23 second left — a goal aided by a fortunate bounce of the puck off an official — and the Ottawa Senators defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Thursday night.
The Sabres had fought back to tie the game with two third-period goals, but Senators captain Jason Spezza found Michalek in the slot and he beat Jhonas Enroth over the shoulder for the winner.
"It's all about winning and we're not doing that right now," said Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who added the puck hit the referee and went right to Spezza on the winning goal.
"Nothing you can do about it. We didn't go the right way that maybe we should have, but it hit the ref and bounces are going to happen but they just weren't in our favor."
Erik Karlsson also scored for the Senators and Craig Anderson made 30 saves. Michalek scored his ninth and 10th goals of the season.
"We believe there's still lots of goals left in Milan, but it's taken a long time to get them out this year," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "With his work ethic and his play without the puck and his abilities on the penalty kill, there's never been a question about his contributions to the team.
"We knew if he would just stay with it good things would happen for him."
Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford scored for the Sabres, who lost for the fourth straight time. Enroth made 33 saves.
The Senators led 1-0 heading into the third and then the play opened up.
It started with Michalek doubling the Senators' lead 10 seconds into the period on a perfect pass from Spezza, allowing Michalek to redirect the puck.
The goal was the fastest in team history from the start of a period breaking the old record of 12 seconds set by Spezza back in 2009.
"At least I'm still involved in (the record) I guess. I would have shot it if I knew that," Spezza joked after the game, quickly getting serious when the Sabres comeback was brought up.
"A two goal lead is a tricky lead. We give up the one goal to make it 2-1 and then really anything can happen with a bounce here or a bounce there. Hopefully we learn from it."
Spezza nearly scored himself on a great individual effort as he fought through the Sabres defense but was stopped by Enroth.
Ottawa got into penalty trouble but was fortunate when Ennis hit the post on one power play.
The Sabres had a five-on three advantage for 17 seconds but were unable to get a shot on goal.
Ennis finally broke Anderson's shutout bid at 10:25 of the third when the puck came to him in front after a failed wrap-around attempt by Stafford.
The puck rolled off Stafford's stick right to Ennis who fired into an empty net.
Stafford tied the game at 15:46 when he grabbed a rebound and went around Anderson, who was down and out on the play.
"There were no excuses not to battle as hard as we could going into that third period and we did a really good job," Ennis said. "It's super disappointing to lose that one."
The three previous games between the Sabres and Senators produced only seven goals, and it seemed more of the same through the first two periods.
Karlsson got that goal when he shot from along the boards eluded Enroth to give the Senators a 1-0 lead just 3:12 into the second period.
Despite seven power plays through the first two periods there were few quality scoring chances.
One the Sabres did have though came late in the second when Stafford drove the Senators net from just above the goal line but he was unable tip the puck through Anderson.
NOTES: Forwards Linus Omark and Marcus Foligno along with defenseman Tyler Myers were scratches for the Sabres. ... Scratches for the Senators were defensemen Chris Phillips and Joe Corvo plus forward Matt Kassiana. ... Senators forward Bobby Ryan has gone four consecutive games without a point, his longest such streak this season. The Senators are 10-0-3 in games this season when Spezza has at least two points ... Matt D'Agostini played his 300th NHL game and his 25th with the Sabres.