Reuters - Sun, 11 Apr 06:28:00 2010
Thomas Vanek scored a career-high four goals to help the Buffalo Sabres snap a nine-game losing streak at the hands of home side the Ottawa Senators with a 5-2 victory.
Vanek scored twice in both the first and second periods as the Sabres beat the Senators for the first time since January 6, 2009. The goals boosted Vanek's season total to 27 in his first game back after missing six with a groin injury.
"It's been a rough year, obviously," Vanek said. "The good part is we're in the postseason. You can make a lot of good in there.
"That's what I'm looking forward to," the left winger added. "Hopefully, I can contribute a lot more than I have been."
Derek Roy had the Northeast Division winners' fifth goal in the third. He also assisted on two of Vanek's scores.
Chris Neil brought Ottawa within 2-1 in the second before Vanek scored his third and fourth goals. The third came on a penalty shot after he was slashed on the ankle while on a second-period breakaway.
The Senators' Shean Donovan completed the scoring with more than six minutes to play in the third.
Both teams are playoff-bound. Buffalo are third and Ottawa fifth in the Eastern Conference heading into Sunday's final day of the regular season. The Sabres could climb to No. 2 in the conference with a win in regulation over the New Jersey Devils.
"Home ice (as the No. 2 seed) would be big for us," Sabres forward Adam Mair said. "I don't know if you're ever in a position where you want to give that away."
Ottawa will be without forward Alex Kovalev during the playoffs after it was confirmed he would require surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Kovalev suffered the injury in Thursday's loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Senators' general manager Bryan Murray said on Saturday the normal rehabilitation period was up to four months.