Joe Corvo’s knuckler from the point 4:58 into double overtime Saturday night lifted the Senators to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres, and for the first time in their post-season history they have a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.
They had been 0-8 in Games 2s after winning the opening game, but that streak is over, much like many of Ottawa’s post-season crutches of years past.
It was Buffalo’s first loss this year after leading by two goals. The Sabres 46-0 in the regular season and the playoffs before Saturday.
Not even an early two-goal lead by the home team nor Daniel Briere’s tying goal with 5.8 seconds to go in the third period could stop Ottawa, which continues to show its resiliency in this year’s playoffs.
The Senators, who fell one win short of the Cup final in 2003, can take a stranglehold in the Eastern Conference final with a win Monday night in what will be a jazzed-up Scotiabank Place in Ottawa (7 p.m. ET).
Wade Redden, Mike Fisher and captain Daniel Alfredsson also scored for the Senators.
Jochen Hecht and Thomas Vanek also scored for the Sabres, who remain scoreless on the power play in this series, going 0-for-7 in Game 2 and are now 0-for-12 in the Eastern Conference final.
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff had a surprise waiting for Ottawa in Game 2, deciding to match up Briere’s line on Jason Spezza’s top unit. Chris Drury’s line had been matched up most of the year and all of these playoffs against the opponent’s top line but Ruff shook things up after Spezza and company had too many chances in Game 1.
It also gave Briere more ice time, which had been a sore point in Game 1. And while the Senators won again, Briere played one of his better games of the post-season.
Knowing their season was essentially on the line, the Sabres charged out of the gates and took it to the Senators, drawing a penalty early on because of their hard work in the offensive zone. And they thought they had a goal on the ensuing power play at 1:51, but a lengthy video review ruled it no goal, the ruling that the puck was directed in off Vanek’s gloves.
“We looked hard for all angles to deem the puck was off the glove,” Kris King, the NHL’s director of hockey operations (Toronto), explained during the first period intermission. “And indeed it was as he was shooting and (rule) 67.6 says that you cannot direct the puck into the net with the glove.”
So Vanek took it in his own hands, making a great move around Dany Heatley at 3:41 and finding the top corner on Emery while falling down.
The sellout HSBC Arena crowd of 18,690 found a new decibel level to go to after Hecht made it 2-0 at 6:13, hammering home a rebound from the faceoff dot after a series of saves from Emery.
It could easily have been 3-0 moments later by Emery stoned Jason Pominville from in-close with a superb pad save. It was a save to remember, because the comeback started moments later.
The Senators’ big guns cut the lead to 2-1. Spezza found Heatley inside the Sabres blue-line, and the 50-goal scorer made a perfect feed to Alfredsson, who cut in from the right side and roofed it on Ryan Miller at 14:22 of the first period.
The Sabres went to their dressing room to a standing ovation, having outshot the Senators 15-8 in the opening 20 minutes, a night-and-day effort from Game 1.
But it was Ottawa who came out flying in period 2. Mike Comrie had a glorious chance to tie the game less than two minutes into the second period, walking out alone from the corner but his shot along the ice stopped by a sprawled Miller.
The Sens finally tied it 2-2 at 6:08 on the power play and quieted what had been a lively crowd. Fisher’s one-time blast from the top of the right faceoff circle beat a moving Miller – perhaps one the Sabres goalie should have had.
A roughing penalty to Brian Campbell was followed one minute later by a hooking call on Dainius Zubrus, giving the Senators a 5-on-3 advantage. They didn’t miss, Redden’s one-time blast beating Miller top corner on the glove side with only 15.8 seconds to go in the second period, giving Ottawa the 3-2 lead.
Buffalo didn’t get its first shot of the middle period until 11:30 and was outshot 9-5 overall.
The Senators played shutdown hockey in the third period, keeping the Sabres largely at bay. But Briere provided the miracle goal during a mad scramble in front of Emery, slipping in a loose puck into an empty side with Miller on the bench for the extra attacker.
The Senators outshot the Sabres 9-6 in the first overtime and Antoine Vermette thought he had a goal but his first and second shot were both stopped by Miller.
Ottawa caught a break midway through the first overtime when Alfredsson escaped punishment after hitting Henrik Tallinder from behind into the boards. The top Sabres blue-liner went to the dressing room but later came back.
The Sabres did finally get a power-play chance when Joe Corvo was called for interference at 11:31, but once again didn’t really menace on the man advantage.
Notes: Forward Patrick Eaves (head) remained out for the Senators while tough guy Brian McGrattan and defenceman Lawrence Nycholat were the other notable scratches … Forwards Drew Stafford and Daniel Paille and tough guy Andrew Peters were healthy scratches for the Sabres.