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"As much as it [is disappointing] to lose, there are a lot of good things that came out of this day," Senators forward Jason Spezza said. "It was a pretty special night for Alfie and for everybody to be a part of. We were happy to see him get the recognition he got."
The Sabres dampened the celebration for Alfredsson, who recently played his 1,000th NHL game. Vanek stole the show in his first game after sitting out six due to a lower body injury.
"It was a great ceremony, but I was going to go out and give him the key to Stockholm so he'd go back," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff joked.
Alfredsson, who played in game No. 1,002 on Saturday, became the 44th NHL player to appear in 1,000 games with one franchise. There was a 25-minute pregame ceremony for Ottawa's favorite Swede.
"It was classy by Buffalo to come out to the bench and be part of the ceremony," said Alfredsson, who admitted to being a little nervous during his speech to 20,500 fans at Scotiabank Place.
"It's not something we do every day -- speak in front of a lot of people -- and I kind of lost my train of thought a couple of times when they started chanting my name. All in all, it was a great night and something I'll take with me forever."
Derek Roy also scored for the Sabres, and Ryan Miller made 28 saves for his 41st win. Buffalo will play at New Jersey on Sunday with a chance to claim the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"It was a good game for us overall and it's nice for me to be back and capitalize on my opportunities," Vanek said. "We haven't won in this building in a long time, so this feels great."
Chris Neil and Shean Donovan scored and Pascal Leclaire made 23 saves for the Senators, who will be the fifth-seeded team in the East and face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.
"It's going to be a tough challenge but definitely not impossible," said Alfredsson. "They have a lot of experience, but the biggest thing is going to be discipline and staying out of the penalty box as much as we can."
Roy gave the Sabres a 5-1 lead at 10:16 of the third period when he backhanded in a shot from the slot.
With less than seven minutes left, Donovan picked up a rebound and put a backhander past Miller for the game's final goal.
"That was a good example of the way we can play. It was important for us to get this win," said Miller, who made a big save on Alfredsson in the game's opening minutes.
The Sabres led 2-0 entering the second period when Neil took a terrific behind-the-net pass from Peter Regin. The puck landed on Neil's stick for the easy tap in and the Senators' first goal of the game. Neil reached the 10-goal mark for the third time.
Vanek responded by scoring two more before the end of the period. His first came at 8:57, a little more than a minute after Neil scored, on a penalty shot. After being slashed by Senators defenseman Andy Sutton on a breakaway, Vanek was awarded the shot and beat Leclaire on the backhand.
Four minutes later on a Sabres power play, Vanek batted a puck out of the air past Leclaire for a 4-1 Sabres lead.
The Sabres' sniper also scored the only two goals of the first period. He beat Leclaire at 9:14 on a rebound and at 12:32 when he redirected Derek Roy's pass into the top corner.
- Before the game, Alfredsson was presented with a custom painting by artist Tony Harris from the Senators organization, a silver puck from Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, and a silver stick from his teammates. He was also awarded two crystal awards from the NHL commemorating his 1,000th game and 600th assist.
- Alfredsson has scored 20 or more goals in 10 straight seasons.
- Alfredsson scored the first playoff goal in Senators history in 1997 against the Sabres.
- The Sabres are the only NHL team unbeaten this season when leading after two periods (30-0-0).