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Sabres Central

Pominville’s OT goal spells curtains for Senators
By Rick Anderson
May 14, 2006
The Sabres Jason Pominville dekes Ottawa Senators goalie Ray Emery to score winner and series clinching goal in overtime of game five.
[CP Photo/Tom Hanson]

The mayor of Buffalo should rename the city to Pominville for a week. That would be a fitting honor for Jason Pominville who scored the game winning goal in overtime Saturday night to eliminate the Ottawa Senators. The final score was 3-2 and the Sabres won the second round series with the Sens 4-1.

Pominville’s dramatic goal came just 2:26 into the first overtime and once again the Sabres ended the overtime early. The Sabres won 3 overtimes in this series with the Sens and this was the longest any of them went.

Pominville came through when the Sabres were shorthanded after Jay McKee was sent to the box early in the overtime. Pominville took a pass from Derek Roy and went end-to-end and skated around Daniel Alfredsson as if he were a pylon. Then Pominville deked goalie Ray Emery so he had an open side to shoot at and suddenly the Senators season was over.

The Sabres will be playing the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference finals. That was decided Sunday when the Canes beat the Devils to advance. The first game will be Saturday at 2 pm EDT.

Pominville is Buffalo’s new hero

It has a nice ring to it: Pominville, NY. What better way for the city of Buffalo to embrace its newest hero.

Pominville was waived at the beginning of the year and who would have thought that he would be the hero to put the Sabres into the Eastern Conference championship back in early October?

After the game, he was asked about if he ever even dreamed that he could be in this position after being waived at the beginning of the season. He said no, but was glad for the opportunity to play now and hopes he can continue to contribute.

"Getting sent down (to Rochester) obviously was disappointing," Pominville admitted. "I thought I had a pretty good training camp and to clear waivers. I went down with a good attitude to work my way up, and hopefully I can stick around."

Ruff was surprised that Pominville decided to go for all the gusto when he made his move on Emery.

"I thought he was going to go behind the net," Ruff described. "Then that late cut was an incredible move."

"He's battled hard throughout his career and what a reward! My emotions for him are sky-high."

Miller at the other end of the rink was praying for a goal by his former Amerks teammate.

"When he got position, I was holding my breath for that red light," explained Miller. "One of the greatest feelings of my career. Oh, my God. Unbelievable."

Pominville will never forget that feeling when the red light went on and his teammates jumped over the boards to congratulate him.

"I don't think it's describable," relayed Pominville.

Talking about being a part of this Sabres dream season, he said, "I'm enjoying every minute of it. I do kind of pinch myself every day."


Sabres score first again

Once again the Sabres opened the scoring early, this time Henrik Tallinder notched one only 33 seconds after the opening faceoff. He sent a puck over Ray Emery’s shoulder to the surprise of the sellout at Scotiabank Place. The Senators, who finished the series with 5 two man advantages to the Sabres none, capitalized on some more dubious officiating when Daniel Alfredsson scored around the halfway mark of the first stanza.

Chris Drury came through with a pretty scoring play around the 8 minute mark of the second period when he zig-zagged through the defense and put it past Emery, giving the Sabers a 2-1 lead.

Almost exactly 6 minutes later, Sens defenseman Brian Pothier took a long shot that somehow got through a maze of players and past a screened Ryan Miller to tie it up. That’s how the score stayed until Pominville’s heroics in overtime.

The Senators felt that they could get back into the series. They knew they had to keep up the pressure on the Sabres and win one at home, which they hadn't done yet. The Sabres knew that if they kept the game tied and went into overtime, that they could get that rush up the ice and score when the Sens were pressing. Little did they know, however, that it would be when the Sens had a powerplay.

The Sabres have had rookies and young players step up all year to fill in for the injured vets and this continues the saga of the unsung heroes.

Sens fail Ottawa fans again

There's going to be lots of talk the following week or two as to why the Ottawa Senators failed to live up to the grandiose billing they had. The Sens were the juggernauts, the supermen who wore red capes and flew down the ice.
The past decade it was always the Toronto Maple Leafs that was their giant obstacle that prevented them from advancing. This time, it was the Buffalo Sabres, a group of underpaid, overachievers who doused the Senators hopes and sent them on the golf course.

There will be plenty of questions raised and finger pointing. The fact is that the Senators thought too highly of themselves and didn't get down and dirty, doing whatever it took to get the job done, like the Sabres did. Maybe it's time the Senators brass realize that you don't always have to possess the top stars of the game to win in this league. All they have to do is to look to the Western Conference where all the top teams fell on their collective faces also. The Red Wings, Stars, Flames and Avs were all shocked and sent home early.

The Rangers have been the victims of the belief that big money and big stars translate to a Stanley Cup for years. This year they started to see the writing on the wall and started to make the big change. However, they too haven't gotten the full message that teams like the Sabres are sending: The biggest ingredient to winning is heart, and plenty of it.

"Certainly we had enough going for us," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "We could have gone deeper in the playoffs, but they found a way."

"The right people weren't scoring goals for us," Murray continued. "They won the series because they outplayed us in overtime three times, that was the series. When you lose three games in overtime it's pretty tough."

Miller had high phrase for his teammates who battled the odds all year.

"I'm really proud of the way the guys stuck together and fought for it," lauded Miller. "It definitely wasn't easy. People tend to think, 3-0, the series is all over but the handshake. But that team is dangerous. We had to come here and prove we could do it."

Brian Campbell, who has been the target of many hits after his big hit on Umberger of the Flyers in round one, talked about how the Sabres had some issues with the Senators after being embarrassed in their first 5 games with them this season.

"We got beat bad by these guys early in the year," said Campbell. "That pissed us off a lot. I think we had a pissed-off attitude coming in here. They got their seven or eight goals a game and we didn't want it to happen again. We had something to prove."

Ruff rides the rough seas

Ruff would be the first to deflect the credit for the Sabres success this season onto his players and assistant coaches. He's the perfect coach for this blue collar city. The fans grew to finally embrace this man who replaced the ever-popular Ted Nolan. It took a few years, but now everyone is in Ruff's corner.
Ruff has already broken Scotty Bowman's playoff record with the Sabres. He had a 34-44 playoff record going into the post season and now has upped it to 42-46 and counting.

Ruff has had to deal with adversity all his life. Not only did he have to deal with his 11 year old daughter having a brain tumor earlier this season, but when he was a player, his brother Brent, then 16, was killed in a tragic bus accident.

Ruff is the winningest active coach in the playoffs. While most of his team is inexperienced, he has the know-how on what succeeds in the playoffs. With the Sabres involved in a 7-6 shootout in Game One against the Senators, Ruff took a couple steps back to incorporate his defensive schemes that worked so well during the 1999 playoffs. That's when the Sabres surprised everyone and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Now Ruff is surprising people again, taking a team loaded with kids and sprinkled with a few vets to unchartered territory.



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