First, the Sabres got back at the Senators during a wild second-period melee — a brawl that involved all 12 skaters on the ice, including Biron taking on Ottawa goalie Ray Emery.
Then, despite a depleted bench, the Sabres won the game 6-5, when Drew Stafford scored the lone shootout goal Thursday night.
“Emotions were running high. … It didn’t matter who was on the ice, anybody would’ve responded,” said Biron, who was ejected along with Emery and Buffalo tough-guy Andrew Peters. “That was really satisfying. And it’s satisfying to see the way we played after that.”
What incensed the Sabres was seeing Drury, with a deep cut across his forehead, needing help to get up after being bowled over by Neil. It happened 5 minutes into the second period after Drury had just snapped a shot on net from the right circle. That’s when Neil, without slowing, hit him from behind. Neil’s shoulder caught Drury across the side of the head, sending Drury flying and his helmet off.
Neil was not penalized for the hit, but Sabres coach Lindy Ruff called it dirty.
The Senators saw things very differently.
Neil described his hit as clean, adding that Drury shouldn’t have had his head down.
“I put out skill players and he sends out the five guys on his team that are going to start a fight,” Murray said, referring to Ruff. He then accused the Sabres coach of ordering his players to start the fight.
Ruff’s answer to that was: “I’m not going to comment what I had on my mind.”
After pausing, Ruff added: “Go out and run ‘em.”
The game was delayed by about 20 minutes as officials issued 100 penalty minutes, 63 against Buffalo.
As inspiring as the Sabres’ victory was, the bad news is that Drury, who scored his team-leading 33rd goal in the first period, might miss a few games because of what was described as a head injury.
That means the Sabres could be down eight regulars when they play at Ottawa on Saturday to complete the eight-game season series between the Northeast Division rivals.
Leave it to Stafford, one of four minor leaguers called up to bolster Buffalo’s banged-up roster, to seal a game in which both teams squandered two-goal leads.
After the teams failed on each of their first three shootout attempts, Stafford scored when he faked going to his forehand and flipped a backhander past Martin Gerber.
Ryan Miller then sealed the win when he gloved Mike Fisher’s attempt. Miller’s best save came a shootout attempt earlier, when he got his blocker out to foil Mike Comrie, who appeared to have the goalie going the wrong way.
Stafford added two assists while Thomas Vanek scored twice, including his 31st of the season. Clarke MacArthur and Dmitri Kalinin also scored in helping the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres (41-15-5) complete their six-game homestand with a 5-0-1 record.
Dany Heatley scored twice and added an assist, while Spezza had a goal and two assists for the Senators, who had a five-game win streak snapped.
“If they want to start something, we’ve got guys that can handle that and it should be a good one Saturday,” Heatley said. “It’s fun to play them. They’re exciting, emotional games. We’ve got some guys that we don’t like over there. And I’m sure they don’t like a lot of our guys over here.”
The bad blood almost carried over after the game.
Mair went to the Senators locker room, where he apologized to Heatley in the doorway. Heatley accepted the apology, but Senators assistant coach John Paddock shot Mair an angry glare.
“Don’t look at me like that when I’m apologizing,” Mair said to Paddock, who then apologized to Mair.
The Sabres, who overcame a 2-0 deficit, appeared to take control 3 minutes into the third period, when Kalinin made it 5-3, converting his own rebound. … The Senators rallied when Spezza and Fisher scored goals 2:36 apart, tying it at 5 with 9 minutes left. … Emery, who allowed three goals on 15 shots, was back after serving a three-game suspension for slashing Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre. Biron allowed two goals on 18 shots before he was ejected.