In the grip of madness

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

They marched with a joyous purpose through the unseasonably chilly air, more convinced than ever that the chance to sweep away nearly a decade of playoff frustration was finally at hand.

Alas, the party will have to wait for a few more days. Still, Scotiabank Place was alive with a special electricity last night, the kind that only the mere thought of the Stanley Cup can bring to a hockey mad Canadian city.

"It's intense ... awe inspiring," said Steve Anderson of Orleans, a red broom by his side as he waited in the lobby of the arena before Game 4 against the Buffalo Sabres.

STRANGLEHOLD

The Senators entered last night with a 3-0 stranglehold on the Eastern Conference final, a mere 60 minutes away from a possible berth in their first Stanley Cup final in modern franchise history.

It wasn't to be for the Senators and a record crowd of 20,294.

With a 3-2 victory, the Sabres sent the series back to Buffalo for Game 5, Saturday afternoon.

The result spoiled a festive atmopshere that began to build more than two hours before the game -- even though lousy weather shut down the Red Zone.

After years of playoff disappointments, the dream moment was finally at hand.

"I'm so glad this is finally here," said Genevieve Proulx, 22, clad in a silver gladiator's outfit, clutching a broom of her own. "We've been waiting for so many years."

The chance to put away the Sabres -- who'd ended Ottawa's playoff dreams three times previously -- added extra fuel to the fire.

"Especially versus Buffalo," said Anderson. "It'll make the victory all that much more sweeter."

JUMPED ON A PLANE

Rick Dean, a huge Senators fan from Saint John, N.B., has a ticket already bought for Game 6 next Monday. But when last night's clinching opportunity arrived, he jumped on a plane Tuesday to be here.

"New Brunswick is coming to support Canada's team," he said.

That Game 6 ticket, though, might still be of some use, if the Senators can't finish the job at HSBC Arena. But given that Monday is Victoria Day, the Sens Army faithful can be expected to be back out in force.

"The intensity is really something to see," said Kate Kelly, who attended her first-ever playoff game last night with her dad Mike. She decided they just had to be at Game 4 an hour after tickets went on sale.

"The way people have gone all out for this is really great," she said.

Mike Kelly, for one, thinks it's only the beginning for a city that has been waiting too long to embrace a Cup final.

"There's been a few years of disappointment, but not this year, not the way they've been playing," he said.

"I think Ottawa is going to explode next week."


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