Sunday, May 13, 2007

Best punch not enough for Sabres

Lindy Ruff’s Sabres came out at the start of game number two and set the pace for a wild and what would be woolly double overtime game.

Off to a quick start, the Sabres were quickly up by two goals, the perfect start for the faithful at the HSBC and the assorted masses in the parking lot. Early heroes for Buffalo would be Tomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht who scored in the first six minutes to stake a claim for sending the series back to Ottawa tied at one.
The Senators traditionally seem to have a problem with game number 2 of a playoff series, frequently finding themselves on the short end (or some cases long long end) of the stick, often a game that can change a destination.

But as is quickly being learned in this season’s playoff games, these are not your former Senators. This line up is a battling batch of dedicated players, not easily frazzled, able to channel disappointment or disaster into a possibility.

And that’s precisely what happened as Game Two progressed, the Sabres took their two goal lead as far as the fourteen minute mark of the first period, when Daniel Alfredsson playing some of the finest hockey of his career, put his team on the scoreboard, finally solving the immovable force of Ryan Miller in the Sabre nets.

The second period featured goals from Mike Fisher and Wade Redden putting the Sens up by one and looking ready to head back to Ottawa after sixty minutes up by two games. However, as is the norm in Buffalo, the Sabres don’t quit until that final horn sounds, they battled back through the third period coming close only to be denied by Ray Emery in the Ottawa net. It was a wild scramble on the boards that sent a puck out to the right of Emery’s net giving Daniel Briere a game tying goal with mere seconds left in regulation time.

With momentum decidedly on the side of Buffalo heading into the dressing room, the Sens core group of leaders took over the room, telling the team to look past the last second goal, focus instead on the challenge ahead, to get one goal to take a 2- 0 lead in the series heading for home.

A first overtime period featured many chances at the Buffalo end of the rink, as Miller held the fort and denied the Sens on key opportunities throughout the period. Emery was kept active in the Ottawa end, but not nearly as frequent as Miller in the Buffalo end.

The Sens were tenacious in their fore-check, hemming the Sabres deep into their own end time and time again. It was as near complete game from all players as you might find in playoff hockey. Occasional lapses would be picked up by someone, allowing the Sens to continue to work hard in the Buffalo end.

A work ethic that would pay off in the second overtime, five minutes into the second extra period Jason Spezza won the draw deep in the Buffalo zone, a rolling puck traveled back to Joe Corvo who smacked a knuckle ball shot over Millers catching glove. The silence that descended on the rink, provided an ominous scene for the Sabres who now are clearly in a bit of trouble in their quest to challenge of the Stanley Cup.

While it’s never over until it’s over, the Senators will be feeding off the enthusiasm of the Ottawa crowd on Monday in game three. Coming home with a 2 game lead in a best of seven series puts the Sens on the threshold of putting away an old foe and a lot of ghosts.

We’ll follow up on some of the press that game two has received:

Senators sock Sabres with stinging blow in double OT

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