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Senators one win from conference final after 3-2 victory over Devils

The centre on what has been Ottawa's top checking line scored the game-winner in a 3-2 NHL playoff victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night. Fisher beat Hart and Vezina trophy candidate Martin Brodeur with a long shot at 3:58 of the third period to give Ottawa a sweep of two home games and a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series. The Senators can advance to the conference final with win in Game 5 on Saturday night in New Jersey.

The win came before a record crowd of 20,248, most dressed in Senators' red, at Scotiabank Place.

"It's nice to get one, especially a big one," said Fisher.

Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson also scored for the Senators, who used some lapses by an otherwise solid Brodeur to take a 3-1 lead and hang on for the win under intense New Jersey pressure late in the game. Ottawa outshot the Devils 36-31.

Jay Pandolfo's first goal of the post-season at 9:36 of the third closed the gap to one goal. Brian Gionta scored in the second period for the Devils.

"You can't question Marty because he's the best," New Jersey captain Patrick Elias said of Brodeur. "Their third goal was a quick shot that surprised everybody. Same with their second one."

That was Heatley's shocker at 14:44 of the second period that broke a 1-1 tie.

The big winger spun and slid a puck from the right boards that got through skates and sticks and into the net from a very tight angle.

"I was actually trying to hit Spezz (Jason Spezza) back door," said Heatley. "I don't know if it hit something or what."

Brodeur simply wanted to put the bad goal behind him.

"That's the way it happens, you can't dwell on it," said Brodeur. "I try to stop every puck, but sometimes it doesn't happen."

The Devils played with desperation coming off their 2-0 loss in Game 3 on Monday, and got an energy boost from inserting the crashing David Clarkson in the lineup, but the Senators raised their game as well.

The Devils blocked 20 shots, Ottawa blocked 21. New Jersey dished out 20 hits, the Senators had 22.

But a big advantage was in the faceoff circle. Led by Fisher's 64 per cent success rate, Ottawa won the lion's share of draws.

"Respect is a big thing - we have to respect their team every game," said Alfredsson, Ottawa's captain. "We know we have to play close to our best to beat them and that's what keeps us humble.

"We know we have to work hard for our breaks and not take anything for granted."

Added Emery: "This is not over. They're a better team back home and they're a proud team too."

And they should be fierce when facing elimination.

Brodeur spoke about having to learn to hate the Senators. There has been intensity and good disciplined hockey in the series, but little animosity between the clubs; few bitter words or skirmishes after whistles.

Devils defenceman Colin White said it would take "a lot of hard work some luck, I guess. Focusing on each shift in each game, that's where it starts. It isn't over yet."

Ottawa opened the scoring when Alfredsson took a drop pass from Spezza, slipped the puck to Heatley behind the net and got open to one-time the return pass over Brodeur 4:34 into the game.

But the Senators took the first four penalties of the game and the Devils finally capitalized 4:17 into the second frame when Gionta followed in to bang in Patrick Elias' rebound.

It was Gionta's league-leading eighth goal of the playoffs and third of the series and Brodeur got an assist for starting the play. It also ended Emery's home shutout string at 152 minutes 33 seconds.

Emery had shutouts in his last two home playoff starts - Game 5 of the first round against Pittsburgh and Game 3 against New Jersey on Monday. He last allowed a goal at home to the Penguin's Sidney Crosby at 11:44 of the third period on April 14.

As a consolation, he got an assist on Fisher's goal.

Brodeur continued to struggle with awkward shots from the right side as Heatley put Ottawa back in front.

Vincent Lecavalier scored two similar goals, also from bad angles from the right side, in the opening round against Tampa Bay.

The Senators' only visit to the conference final was in 2003, when they lost in seven games to New Jersey.

Notes: Devils' fourth-liner Michael Rupp sat out for the first time in the playoffs and was replaced by Toronto native Clarkson, who made his NHL playoff debut in Game 1 of the series but sat out the last two games... Ottawa and New Jersey are both playing in the post-season for a 10th straight year, tied for the second-longest current streak behind Detroit's 16.



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