Hardly a saving grace

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

Sabres 7, Senators 6 (OT)

As another coach from another series once said, the occasional save would have been nice.

Actually, the way things were going, the Senators might've only needed Ray Emery to stop one more puck.

The first one in overtime.

That's because Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-final evolved into a last-shot-wins deal, and that was delivered by Buffalo's Chris Drury 18 seconds into the extra period last night.

In stopping 16-of-23 sent his way, Emery worked to the 30.4% rule, which is better than John Grahame's 25% rule that John Tortorella complained about in Round 1, but not by much.

"Our game plan didn't change from the Philadelphia series to here," said Drury. "It's to get pucks to the net and create some traffic.

"We certainly got some breaks, but whether (Emery) was sharp or wasn't .... that's our game plan."

Drury said his winner, which beat Emery high on the stick side, went where he tried to send it.

"I was shooting for that spot," said Drury, who took a pass from Mike Grier before lighting the lamp. "It wasn't predetermined before the game that that is his weak spot or anything ... I think he might have bit on Mike's fake."

The Senators, for the most part, were less concerned about the play of their rookie goalie than they were disgusted in their overall sloppiness.

They also vowed to bounce back strong in Game 2. In fact, the general mood was best summed up by the philosopher Peter Schaefer.

"Oh well," the winger sighed as he was leaving the post-game workout room. "Jump off the bridge tonight and swim back tomorrow."

BackBreaker, heartbreaker and ...:

BrickBreaker is a reflex-, stamina- and nerve-testing video game on most Blackberrys and probably a few cellphones. It is also the time-killer of choice on planes, buses and in hotel rooms for many Senators these days. A couple of the boys are "stuck" at the 13,000-14,000 level, which is pretty good. Take it from a guy who currently has a high score of 8,980. Then there's Jason Spezza, who owns the best mark among all Senators -- an unbelievable (until he shows you the proof) 27,105. "I spend a little time on it," the Ottawa centre said yesterday morning, before admitting that linemate Dany Heatley is also in the 26,900 range. "Me and Heater are in a different league (than the rest)." Heatley and Spezza are usually in a league of their own when it comes to the high numbers in their favourite game, too. But last night (and who would have predicted this?) they combined for just three of the 36 points scored in Game 1 -- Heatley with a goal and an assist and Spezza with one goal. Meanwhile, poolies who grabbed Rockland's Derek Roy with a late pick are beside themselves this morning. "I had my legs under me and my linemates were feeding me nice passes," said the diminutive forward, who tied a Sabres playoff record of five points with his two goals and three helpers. "It seems like things worked out really well."

Starts and stops:

Remember the 'playoff fever' Ottawa used to catch? Yesterday morning there were 350 tickets still available for last night's game. Just before the opening faceoff we heard of a scalper who bought 100 tickets for $10 apiece. And then we see empty seats in various areas, including a whole bunch of them in Section 103. What's up with that? Are Senators fans waiting for the conference final before flooding the bandwagon again? ... And yet attendance was announced at "another sellout" of 19,544. So I guess all is good ... Included on any highlight reel of the 2006 NHL playoffs will be Sabres defenceman Brian Campbell's thundering and perfectly clean bodycheck on R.J. Umberger in Game 1 of the Buffalo-Philly series. The sight of the rookie winger lying dazed on the ice prompted suggestions that there's a new Campbell's Soup on the market: Cream of Umberger. "I don't think it was quite like scoring a goal in the Stanley Cup final," the former 67's star said yesterday. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't walk anywhere in Buffalo without people coming up to me and saying, 'Nice hit.' "

Between periods:

Sabres D Teppo "Hello" Numminen has ventured into uncharted (frozen) waters, making it as far as the second round of the playoffs for the first time in his 17-year NHL career. The former Winnipeg Jet/Phoenix Coyote/Dallas Star set an NHL record by playing in 10 first rounds without advancing. "It's always tough to lose, but there's nothing you can do about it," Numminen said yesterday. "I don't think I'm a worse or better person because of it. I'm just glad I'm here now." ... The Sabres were guilty of the first icing 17 seconds into the game -- then scored the game's first goal at the 35-second mark. The streamers falling from the ceiling at the end of the anthem barely had time to settle.

Things that make you go hmmm...:

Wade Redden nailed one of Buffalo's few tall guys (Paul Gaustad) with a cross-check to the chops in the first. On most other Sabres, Redden would have connected with nothing but air ... A couple of Toronto writers wondered how Leafs blueliners Wade Belak and Aki Berg would have survived the first period. "They might have been a combined minus-7," figured one. Or maybe a little more ... Doesn't it seem like Syracuse native Tim Connolly -- who had two goals last night to match the two black eyes he has from being hit with a puck in the Flyers series -- has scored about three or four beauties in the past few weeks. Part of the credit has to go to his mother, Anne. While his dad is a Buffalo boy, she's from Burlington. "I'm half Canadian," Connolly said with a smile.

Butt ends:

Redden was a minus-4 and blame for that should go to his blue-line partner. Yet strangely, Andrej Meszaros was only a minus-1. It may have been the rookie's worst night as an NHLer ... Senators coach Bryan Murray pointed out that Chris Kelly's importance was evident in the later stages of the game. "We usually have him on the ice in that situation," Murray said of Connolly's tying goal, 10.7 seconds from the end. Kelly was clipped in the eye but should be okay ... Daniel Alfredsson drew a roar from the crowd during a shift that saw him rush the length of the ice, collide hard with Jay McKee in the corner, then come close with a backhander from the slot.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos