The Buffalo Sabres wasted an opportunity to essentially secure the Northeast Division title with another loss to their closest pursuer.
They haven't squandered any chances at earning points against the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.
The Sabres look to clinch a playoff berth and sweep the season series from the Lightning on Saturday night at HSBC Arena.
Heading into Friday's home game against second-place Ottawa, Buffalo (40-23-10) had a chance to open up a nine-point lead atop the Northeast with a victory. Instead, the Sabres' four-game winning streak came to an end with a 4-2 loss, allowing the Senators to move within five points. Buffalo, which needs one more victory to clinch a playoff berth, clearly still has the inside track for the division crown with nine games remaining compared to Ottawa's seven.
The Sabres had plenty of opportunities Friday, firing 43 shots on goal, but only Tim Kennedy and Jason Pominville found the back of the net as Buffalo lost to the Senators for the ninth straight time.
"We've got to suck it up and play a better game," said Ryan Miller, who stopped 26 of 29 shots after recording a 1.98 goals-against average during the four-game winning streak.
That streak began with a 6-2 victory at Tampa Bay on March 18, when Pominville had a hat trick. The Sabres have scored 14 goals in their three wins over the Lightning this season, extending their dominance in the series.
Buffalo is 16-3-0 against Tampa Bay since 2005-06. Miller has been in net for all 19 of those games, posting a 2.71 GAA.
Tampa Bay (30-32-12) won 5-3 at Boston on Thursday to pull within six points of the Bruins for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning, who have eight games remaining, have now won two in a row after losing five straight and 12 of 14.
"We've got an uphill climb, but no one in this dressing room is quitting right now," Tampa Bay center Steve Stamkos said. "That's two big wins for us -- a big win against the team that we're chasing. It's been a tough year for us. We believe we deserve a better fate. We've been very inconsistent this year and it's definitely cost us to where we are right now. But we've still got a shot. We've got to believe that."
Stamkos scored his 44th and 45th goals Thursday to tie Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead. The second-year forward admits a scoring title would be a remarkable, but he's more concerned with getting the Lightning to the playoffs.
"It would be nice," said Stamkos, who has one goal and three assists against the Sabres this season. "But if I win it and help this team win at the same time, that's (better). I just want to try and produce offense. That's my job, that's my role. I want to help this team win and see what happens at the end of the year."