Sabres oust Senators

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OTTAWA – The Buffalo Sabres finished off the top-seeded Ottawa Senators with yet another overtime goal.

Jason Pominville scored a short-handed goal 2:26 into the extra period, Ryan Miller made 34 saves and Buffalo beat Ottawa 3-2 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference final against the winner of the Carolina-New Jersey series.

With Jay McKee in the penalty box for tripping Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson 1:44 into the extra period, Pominville burst down the left side and cut in front of goalie Ray Emery to tuck the puck past the Ottawa rookie and give Buffalo its third overtime winner of the series.

All five games were decided by one goal in the series that featured a tie score or a one-goal lead for all but 1:40 of total play.

Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder scored his first career playoff goal 33 seconds in and co-captain Chris Drury added a power-play goal 7:56 into the second to put Buffalo up 2-1.

Senators defenseman Brian Pothier scored for the second game in a row on a power play at 13:59 of second to tie it at 2. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson got his second goal of the playoffs – his first of the series – on a 5-on-3 midway through the first.

Buffalo, which finished fourth in the East, three points behind conference top-seed Ottawa in the Northeast Division, will face either No. 2 Carolina or No. 3 New Jersey in its first conference final since 1999.

The Sabres, who lost the conference final to Washington in 1998, defeated Toronto in five games that year to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in their history.

The Senators, who finished with 113 points and led the league with 314 goals, finished another disappointing playoffs after building up great expectations with a dominant regular season performance to reach the postseason for the ninth straight season.

The usually quiet Scotiabank Place crowd began to chant “Let’s go, Senators!” in the third and Martin Havlat came close to rewarding them when he drove a slap shot off the left post with about 6:00 left in the period.

Emery stopped Maxim Afinogenov’s backhand with 3:54 remaining in the third.

Devils 5, Hurricanes 1

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The breaks came in bunches and kept the New Jersey Devils alive for at least one more day.

Plagued by bad bounces and misfortune throughout the first three games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Hurricanes, the Devils busted out with three first-period goals – all by their maligned special teams – and cruised to a 5-1 victory Saturday that forced the best-of-seven series back to Carolina.

Scott Gomez scored twice, and Sergei Brylin’s goal 44 seconds into the middle frame made it 4-0 and chased rookie goalie Cam Ward, who paced Carolina’s seven-game winning streak that ended in a big way. John Madden and Jay Pandolfo also scored for New Jersey.

Martin Brodeur, who had his worst postseason loss in Game 1, made 19 saves.

His only blemish was Mark Recchi’s goal with 8:56 left in the second that cut Carolina’s deficit to 5-1.

Brodeur moved into sole possession of third place on the NHL career playoff wins list with 89 while playing his record 141st consecutive game.

Just as Carolina made a statement in snapping New Jersey’s 15-game winning spurt in the series opener with a 6-0 rout, the Devils took a stand to avoid getting swept for the first time in franchise history.

But the Hurricanes are still in great shape to reach the conference finals for the second time in four seasons, up 3-1 with two home games left should the series go the distance. Only two NHL teams have rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win.

Gomez scored two power-play goals in the opening period – one that bounced in off a defenseman and another that hit his leg – and Pandolfo added a short-handed tally just moments after Brodeur lost his stick as the Hurricanes’ previously potent power play operated in the Devils’ zone.

It didn’t matter.

The Hurricanes couldn’t muster a shot during the added advantage, and when Madden intercepted a pass he started a 2-on-1 the other way with Pandolfo, who gave New Jersey a 2-0 lead as he fell at 11:02.

Gomez stretched it to 3-0 by being in the right place in front. During New Jersey’s third power play, he notched his second man-advantage goal when Jamie Langenbrunner’s shot from the left point struck his leg and caromed past Ward with 59.3 seconds left in the first.

The Devils came in with only one special-teams tally – a power-play goal in Game 3 – but tripled that in less than 20 minutes. The Hurricanes killed off 14 of 15 disadvantages in the first three games and converted on eight of their 18 power-play chances

The 22-year-old Ward’s good fortune, which began in Game 2 of Carolina’s first-round series win over Montreal, ran out. He was replaced by Martin Gerber in the opening minute of the second period when Brylin scored on the Devils’ initial shot of the frame and 17th overall.

Ward took over for Gerber after the Hurricanes’ regular gave up six goals to Montreal in the postseason opener and three more in the first period of the Game 2 loss. Ward allowed only 12 goals before Saturday.

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