Ottawa's Ray Emery made his return to the net memorable on Thursday, getting ejected after a pair of fights in the Senators' shootout loss in Buffalo.
Rookie Drew Stafford was the only scorerin the shootout, leading to a 6-5Buffalo win in a marathon game that featured a second-period brawl.
The Sabres, already reeling with a spate of injuries to their forwards, took exception when Ottawa right-winger Chris Neil hit Buffalo centre Chris Drury just over five minutes into the period.
When play resumed, everyskater on the ice dropped their gloves and the goalies skated towards centre ice to square off.
After Emery took on an outmatched Martin Biron, Buffalo enforcer Andrew Peters came in to tangle with the Ottawa netminder.
Drury was helped off the ice with a severe cut across his forehead. Biron, Peters and Emery were all ejected, and 110 penalty minutes were doled out.
After the officials calmed things down on the ice, coaches Lindy Ruff and Bryan Murray spent a few minutes jawing at each other from their benches.
"It was a shot to the head," Ruff, who accused Neil of using his elbow, said after the game. "I don't condone those type of hits.
"I don't care if you lose the game 10-1, you don't lie down after that," he added.
"I put out skill players and he sends out the five guys on his team that are going to start a fight," said Murray, who said Neil hadn't used his elbow.
Emery was making his first start after serving a three-game suspension for slashing Montreal's Maxim Lapierre.
After three misses apiece in the shootout, Stafford beat Ottawa replacement Martin Gerber with a backhand move. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller then stoned Senator Mike Fisher with a glove save.
Buffalo (41-15-5) leads the NHL with 87 points. Ottawa (35-22-4) was trying for a season-high six-game winning streak.
Rematch on Saturday
The two clubs will face off again on Saturday in Ottawa (CBC 7 p.m. ET - Ottawa region only).
"If they want to start something, we've got guys that can handle that and it should be a good one Saturday," Senators forward Dany 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."
Thomas Vanek had two goals for the Sabres, while Drury scored his 33rd before getting hit. Dmitri Kalinin and Clarke MacArthur, with his first NHL goal, also scored.
Stafford had two assists to go along with his shootout goal.
Heatley upped his goal total to 35 with a pair. Fisher, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza each had a goal and assist.
Defenceman Wade Redden had a pair of assists for Ottawa, who outshot Buffalo 43-32.
Vanek's pair staked the Sabres to a 3-2 lead. The sophomore forward now has 31 goals.
The Senators enjoyed successive power playsafter the brawl, and eventually made good.
Heatley one-timed a Spezza pass for his second of the game, which tied the game 3-3.
The Sabres went aheadlate in the second when an unlikely pair combined on a 2-on-1. Gerbermade the initial save, butMacArthur — who is from Lloydminster, Alta. — scored his first ever in his fifth career game.
Buffalo native Patrick Kaleta, in his first NHL game, assisted on the play.
The Sabres appeared in control early in the third when Kalinin finished a rush by burying his own rebound past Gerber.
But Ottawa scored a pair of goals in a three-minute span on shots that handcuffed Miller.
Redden's shot from the point clipped Spezza's stick at the 6:22 mark, and soon after Fisher fired a wristshot from the right face-off circle that Miller didn't see.
Buffalo's Henrik Tallinder hit the post in the final minute of regulation, temporarily delaying the Sabre victory.
Heading into Saturday's final meeting, Ottawa is 4-3 against Buffalo.