Ottawa leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final 3-1 and will have a second chance to clinch its first ever berth in the Stanley Cup final in Game 5 on Saturday night in Buffalo. Maxim Afinogenov and Chris Drury added goals in the second frame as the Sabres got three past Ray Emery on their first 10 shots.
Dean McAmmond and Peter Schaefer responded late in the second for Ottawa, but they couldn’t get the equalizer past Ryan Miller. Other than one brief letdown, Miller had a second straight big game in the Buffalo net.
Joe Corvo had a glittering chance from the slot in the third frame and was robbed on a glove save by Miller.
The Senators were seeking their first playoff series sweep. They ended a six-game winning run and saw their top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza end nine-game points streaks.
Ottawa outshot Buffalo 33-22 despite more energetic checking by the Sabres.
Buffalo got a break off the opening faceoff, when Andrei Meszaros’ clearing pass hit Roy’s skate and was kept in at the blue-line by Drury, whose pass was redirected in at the side of the net at the nine-second mark.
It was the fastest playoff goal from the start of a game in Sabres history, beating a Henrik Tallinder goal last year at 33 seconds, but short of the NHL record of six seconds by Dan Kozak of Los Angeles in 1977.
Buffalo took further heart in killing three Senators’ power plays in the period, even if they were outplayed at even strength.
The Sabres got a two-man advantage early in the second frame with Chris Neil and McAmmond off and Afinogenov converted a Daniel Briere pass at the side of the net at 4:32. It was Buffalo’s first power-play goal of the series.
Emery was shaky as Drury made it 3-0 with a shot off the rush at 8:06 that found an opening under the goaltender’s arm.
The Senators looked beat, the crowd quieted, but they came to life when Meszaros’ shot went off a leg to McAmmond for a quick shot inside the near post at 14:55.
Less than two minutes later, with heavy pressure in the Buffalo zone, Schaefer scored his first goal of the playoffs on a blast from the slot off a feed from behind the net by Mike Comrie.
That set the stage for some wild pressure in the third period, which had the record Scotiabank centre crowd of 20,294 roaring as Ottawa pressed for the tying goal.
Notes – Dainius Zubrus, who missed practice Tuesday and the morning skate on Wednesday, was in the Buffalo lineup. Neither team made roster changes. . . Ottawa’s Martin Gerber has a shot at winning a Stanley Cup as a backup goalie for a second straight year. He did it last year playing behind Cam Ward with Carolina.