BUFFALO -- Coach Lindy Ruff talked about the pain the favoured Senators suffered last year at the hands of his Buffalo Sabres.
Now he knows what it feels like.
"I think you've got to rely on past experiences to move forward and they've suffered a lot of pain, you know," he said of the Senators. "Last year was painful. They've had a lot of years of pain where expectations have been sky high for them. They've had a lot of players that I think have grown through all that and now really survived and they're going to get their opportunity.
"We still need to grow a little bit. We gained a lot of maturity in last year's playoffs and we had a lot of young guys get a lot of quality playoff time."
The Sabres got themselves into a 3-0 hole in this series and lost all three games on home ice as they struggled this playoff season to capture their form of the regular season, when they were the NHL's top team.
"I think at some point, every team learns there are two different seasons," said Sabres co-captain Chris Drury, who showed a lot of heart, returning to the game after suffering a deep gash after being hit in the face with a shot (he needed 11 stitches, eight outside and three on the inside).
"You got to do things in the post-season that Lindy always said are out of character, things you don't do as a team or as an individual during the year.
"You get this far and run into a team like Ottawa, you're not going to get away with not playing as hard as you can."
This was supposed to be the Sabres' year. After losing in the conference final last year, they won the President's Trophy as the regular season's best team.
Now they face uncertainty with Drury and co-captain Daniel Briere poised to become unrestricted free agents July 1.
"We're not going to be a group anymore," said Drury. "After nine months, that is hard to take. Even teams that win, there's always changes, new faces. We know there are going to be changes here."