BUFFALO -- They never have been in this place before, up a deuce after two games in a playoff series, but this Ottawa Senators team is unlike those of the past.
This Senators team has tapped into a previously undiscovered reservoir of patience or composure or whatever you want to call it, found a way to relentlessly stay the course.
There were hints of it in the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Think of the beginning of Game 2 when they were down quickly by a goal in a pumped up building. They won that one.
They showed more of it in the second round against the New Jersey Devils. Down 1-0 in Game 5 in New Jersey, they came back to win that one, too, and eliminate the Devils.
But those tests were nothing like last night's.
A shaky start in Game 2 of the Eastern final against the Buffalo Sabres, a 2-0 deficit and then a tying goal against them with 5.8 seconds left in regulation.
After all that, with the game floating there for the taking, it was the Senators who this time seized it, centre Jason Spezza winning a draw against Buffalo Sabre Chris Drury, winning it cleanly back to defenceman Joe Corvo, whose slapshot silenced the HSBA Arena in the second overtime and the gave the Senators a 4-3 victory.
"I watched it the whole way and it kind of bounced in. I was trying to get to the net and when I didn't have to," said Spezza, "I was pretty happy."
This Senators team, which added another layer of resolve last night, headed back to Ottawa for tomorrow night's Game 3 at Scotiabank Place with a 2-0 series lead and the knowledge they can survive Buffalo's last-second magic which has sparked them three times this spring.
The Senators survived an opening period in which they were lucky to come out on the other side down only 2-1.
After playing almost flawlessly for the second and third periods, they gave up that tying goal by Daniel Briere.
But they persevered.
"They got the miracle goal, the puck going through three bodies and right on to Briere's tape," Spezza said. "They battled. They're a good hockey club. But I think it just shows the maturity of our hockey club. We're a lot calmer than we used to be."
Once again it was Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who continues to build his case as the Conn Smythe Trophy favourite, leading the way to salvage the opening 20 minutes, completing a beautiful setup with a shot over the glove hand of Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller to cut the Sabres' lead in half at 14:22 of the first.
Alfredsson's goal was huge because it left the Sabres holding only the slimest of margins when it seemed like they deserved more. They wanted more shots on Senators goaltender Ray Emery than the feeble 20 they had managed in Game 1. They got 15 in the first last night.
But their power play remains their glaring weakness, 0-for-7 last night and now 0-for-12 in the series, while Ottawa's allowed them to take control of the game in the second.
It scored twice, the first with Buffalo's Derek Roy in the box and Senators centre Mike Fisher beating Miller with a strong one-timer to the stick side (the second such goal in this series).
Then, with a two-man advantage late in the period, Senators defenceman Wade Redden ripped a rising shot by Miller's glove hand to give the Senators a 3-2 lead.