BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Joseph Corvo never scored a bigger goal, and the Ottawa Senators have never been in such an advantageous position in the playoffs.
Believe it, these Senators are for real. Corvo’s bouncing shot skipped in at 4:58 of the second overtime, giving Ottawa a 4-3 win over the stunned and suddenly silenced Buffalo Sabres in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.
The goal gave Ottawa a 2-0 series lead heading home for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday, and marks the first time the Senators have won the first two games of a series.
“It’s obviously the biggest goal of my life,” the defenseman said of his second career playoff goal. “Just total elation when it went in. It was obviously just a great moment, something I’ll always remember.”
It’ll be a difficult one to forget in Ottawa. The Senators now have a prime chance to advance to their first Stanley Cup finals.
The Senators overcame an early 2-0 deficit, and rebounded after allowing Buffalo to force overtime when co-captain Daniel Briere scored with 5.8 seconds left.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. These guys won the Presidents’ Trophy, and have been great at home all year,” Senators forward Jason Spezza said. “But I think we had a quiet confidence in ourselves.”
Spezza had three assists. His biggest was setting up Corvo’s goal, when Spezza beat Chris Drury on a faceoff to the right of the Buffalo net. Spezza drew the puck back to the point, where Corvo took a step into the middle and slapped in a knuckler that one-hopped in past Ryan Miller.
“A dirty puck off the slap shot, a drop-shot that catches the edge,” Miller said. “It’s a terrible way to end a game.”
The top-seeded Sabres continued their uncharacteristic stretch of inconsistent play following a 5-2 loss on Thursday. And they lost Saturday’s game by producing an unlikely first after going 40-0 in the regular season and 6-0 this postseason when holding a two-goal lead.
“We have 24 hours to wrap our heads around it,” Miller said. “If they can come in here and steal some games, we’re definitely capable of it. … Tonight shouldn’t leave us feeling too good. We should come out hungry.”
Buffalo did that Saturday but couldn’t maintain its early momentum after building a 2-0 lead on Hecht’s goal 6:13 in.
Back came the Senators, who outplayed the Sabres over the final two periods of regulation and appeared to take control when Redden capped a three-goal rally by scoring on a one-timer during a two-man advantage with 16 seconds left in the second. Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher also scored for Ottawa.
The Senators then limited the Sabres to six shots through the first 19 minutes of the third, but couldn’t pull the victory out in regulation.
Briere lifted fans in the sold-out arena to their feet when he tied the game, converting a loose puck that dribbled to him at the right post. The puck got loose after Tim Connolly’s shot from the left circle deflected off defender Chris Phillips.
It was reminiscent of the overtime-forcing goal Drury scored with 7.7 seconds left in Buffalo’s 2-1 win over the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their second-round series.
Ottawa goalie Ray Emery refused to get down when he allowed the first two goals on five shots or after Briere scored.
“There was no panic. We’re definitely tough enough to play that defensive game and bide our time,” Emery said. “We’ve overcome some of the stigmas that everyone’s been talking about. And it’s a great feeling. That’s maybe why we were able to come back from that 2-0 deficit because there’s so much motivation to prove everyone wrong.”
The Senators continue to erase the memories of past playoff disappointments, including last year, when the Sabres needed only five games to eliminate them in the second round.
It’s a different story for Buffalo. All this firepower, and so little to show for it from a team that led the NHL with 308 goals and 53 wins.
“We’re down 0-2, and that’s frustrating,” Briere said. “We have to move on, try to get over it.”
The Sabres not only squandered a lead, but also one of their best first-period performances of this postseason by scoring twice, having another goal disallowed, and outshooting the Senators 15-8. The 15 shots were five short of what Buffalo managed Thursday.
Vanek had a goal disallowed 2 minutes in when replay officials ruled he used his glove to bat in Derek Roy’s shot. Vanek had his hand on his stick and made a shooting motion, but the puck clearly went in off his thumb.
“We don’t judge intent here,” NHL official Kris King said. “We see how the puck gets in the net with the glove moving forward.”
The bad blood between the division rivals is carrying over to the assistant coaches. The Sabres staff, which watches games from the press box, told the elevator operator during the first intermission to shut the door and leave before the Senators’ staff arrived.
The unhappy Senators coaches indicated the Sabres will get no special treatment in Ottawa.
The Senators (46-45) haven’t had a winning playoff record since being 7-6 following a six-game, first-round series in 1998 in their second postseason appearance. … Ottawa’s top line of Alfredsson, Spezza and Dany Heatley has produced a point in eight consecutive games, combining for 13 goals and 22 assists. … Miller finished with 28 saves, but allowed four goals for the third straight time.