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Greatest Games: Ottawa Senators – End Of The Doormat Days

Beating Buffalo put the Senators on the road to respectability with their first playoff berth.
Rick Stewart/Allsport

Rick Stewart/Allsport

No. 1 – April 12, 1997 – Ottawa 1, Buffalo 0

It’s a moment that won’t soon be forgotten by Senators fans. One day after knocking off Detroit at Joe Louis Arena with a 3-2 victory, Ottawa faced a must-win home game against the Sabres to get into the post-season for the first time in the franchise’s rocky five-year existence.

The game was a scoreless tie – a goaltending duel between Ottawa’s Ron Tugnutt and the legendary Dominik Hasek for Buffalo – until defenseman Steve Duchesne scored the game’s only goal via a blast from the point at 15:59 of the third period. Duchesne’s goal sent the 18,500 people in the building into hysterics and the city into wild celebration.

They battled the odds and overcame them for the victory. “The monkey is off our back,” said blueliner Lance Pitlick.

It had been a long road to the playoffs for the Senators. GM Pierre Gauthier took over from founder Randy Sexton, who had taken the GM’s chair, in December 1995 and hired Jacques Martin as coach in January 1996. Martin helped get the Sens on the road to respectability and led the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Alexei Yashin, Shawn McEachern, Wade Redden, Igor Kravchuk, Randy Cunneyworth, Tugnutt and Duchesne.

Breaking that scoreless tie to face Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs was a breakthrough for the organization. “This is the best thing, obviously,” Duchesne said. “To make the playoffs for the first time. I’m just glad to be one of the guys who helped. I’m so proud of everyone. Everyone worked so hard all year. We just have to keep going now.”

It was a night to remember. “We don’t know how good we could be,” Martin said.

No. 2 – Oct. 8, 1992 – Ottawa 5, Montreal 3
Welcome to the NHL! In their first game in franchise history, the Senators pulled off an upset win over Patrick Roy and the Canadiens.

No. 3 – May 19, 2007 – Ottawa 3, Buffalo 2 (OT)
Daniel Alfredsson scored the overtime-winner in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final as the Sens advanced to the Cup final for the first and only time.


Daniel Alfredsson
Jan. 24, 2008 – Ottawa 8, Tampa Bay 4
Alfredsson led by example throughout his career. This night was no different. It was just magical.

The Senators captain exploded for a seven-point game, with a hat trick and four assists, in a lopsided victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, setting a franchise record that still stands today. “When it comes, you take it, because it doesn’t happen too often,” Alfredsson said. “It feels good. I was able to get some pretty good chances, and it was one of those nights when you shoot the puck and it goes where you want it to. It was a lot of fun.”


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