Now that the preliminary is out of the way, bring on the main event.
The Senators needed a shootout to finish off the downward-spiralling Buffalo Sabres 3-2 at Scotiabank Place last night and now attention can fully turn to one of the most-anticipated games here in years.
It's the Senators -- first in the East -- against the Detroit Red Wings -- first in the West -- tomorrow night at Scotiabank Place.
The Senators blew a 2-0 lead last night and went six shooters deep in the shootout for the win with Ottawa's Dean McAmmond beating Sabres goaltender Jocelyn Thibault and Senators goaltender Martin Gerber stopping Buffalo's Jochen Hecht for the win.
The Senators have been guilty of playing down to the level of their competition lately, but tomorrow they will have to play up to it. The Wings lead the league with 70 points (after last night's 6-5 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild) to Ottawa's 60.
"We were pretty fortunate to win," said Senators coach John Paddock. "If we play the giveaway game (tomorrow) like we did (last night), it'll probably be 10-2."
"I think he's right," said McAmmond of Paddock's assessment. "Detroit is a great team, skilled and disciplined. They would make us pay the way we played (last night)."
McAmmond scored the winner after seeing teammate Mike Fisher beat Thibault high to the stick side. McAmmond skated in and pulled off the same shot.
"My shot is high to the glove side, but he was cheating that way, so I went the other way and shot it where he wasn't."
McAmmond agreed the Senators have been guilty at times of playing down to the level of the competition, though the difference most nights isn't that great.
"I would say that's maybe the case," he said. "It's the NHL. It's not from a lack of effort. It's the lack of attention to the fine details that create scoring chances from good defensive posture."
Just a thought for the Sabres, now losers of their last eight games in a row: It's probably not a good idea to give the guy who was just voted onto the 2008 NHL all-star team the kind of time they gave Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson near the end of the second period last night.
Alfredsson, who is the first Senator to be voted as a starter in the all-star game, looked like he almost double-clutched with the puck on his stick, so surprised was he -- along with most in the crowd of 19,843 -- with the room with which he found himself while killing a penalty late in the second period.
He ripped a shot from the right wing circle over the left shoulder of Thibault at 17:08, giving him his team-leading 26th goal of the season and his fifth shortie of the season. That's just one shy of the team single-season record set Antoine Vermette in the 2005-06 season.
Fisher, who looked doubtful in the days leading up to last night's game because of the flu, did most of the work on Alfredsson's goal.
The Senators led 1-0 on Shean Donovan's fifth goal of the season off a pass by Chris Kelly on a 2-1 24 seconds into the second period.
Clarke MacArthur made it 2-1 98 seconds into the third period.