Buffalo stays alive

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 11:40 PM ET

Put away the brooms, heaven will have to wait for Ottawa hockey fans.

The Senators' trip to the Stanley Cup final was put on hold last night as the Buffalo Sabres skated to a 3-2 win in front of a sellout crowd of 20,294 at Scotiabank Place.

The Senators now hope to finish off the Sabres in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final Saturday at 2 p.m. in Buffalo.

"This just wasn't our night," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"We missed out on the party," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "It's disappointing when you lose, especially at home.

With the sea of red anticipating a four-game sweep in the Eastern final, the Sabres brought the sky-high Senators and their loud fans back to the planet with goals from Maxim Afinogenov, Chris Drury and Derek Roy. While the odds remain long for the Sabres to win the series, they've now got a glimmer of hope.

"We knew there was going to be a bump on the road at some point or another," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "We've just got to stick with the plan.

"We've shown that anytime we play our game and get pucks in deep, we're the better hockey team. We had a lot of chances late in the second and the third. We just weren't able to get anything by (Sabres goalie Ryan Miller). That was just a good teaching game to show what we have to do win."

The Senators fell short after Dean McAmmond and Peter Schaefer erased the Sabres' 3-0 lead last night.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was in the house and ready to present the Prince of Wales Trophy, but Miller shut the door on the Senators.

The Senators went 0-for-5 on the power play, which has been their bread and butter this whole series.

With Ottawa trailing 3-0 late in the second, the tide turned the Senators' way as they finally rediscovered the effort that helped them dominate the first three games.

Taking a pass from Chris Kelly in the circle, McAmmond knocked it past Miller on the glove side. From there, the Sabres had trouble getting the puck out of their own zone and nearly didn't make it out of the second alive.

Schaefer, who has struggled at times in these playoffs, brought the Senators within striking distance at 16:41.

Up until that flurry, it had been all Sabres. Senators goalie Ray Emery wasn't sharp and he particularly didn't look good on Drury's goal which gave the Sabres a 3-0 advantage at 8:06 of the third.

Emery couldn't do much with Afinogenov's effort. It came with the Sabres holding a two-man advantage and resulted in Buffalo's first power-play goal of the series in 20 attempts.

There was stunned silence in the building right off the opening faceoff. With blueliner Andrej Meszaros unable to handle the puck, Ales Kotalik threw the puck down low and Roy deflected it in nine seconds into the game.

Roy's effort was the fastest goal against from the start of a game in Senators' history. Claude Lapointe set the old mark of 21 seconds during Round 1 of the playoffs in 2003.

That gave the fans an uneasy feeling, one of the few times in these playoffs the Senators have actually faced adversity. It didn't help that defenceman Tom Preissing and winger Mike Comrie both hit the crossbar behind Miller with first-period shots, but the Senators looked tenuous with the chance to close it out.

"We've just got to have a great effort on Saturday to win it," said defenceman Wade Redden. "You can't expect to win when you get down 3-0."

"We had no magic recipe: It was going to be hard work and desperation and we had them both," said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff.

The hardest work may still be ahead of them.


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