Ottawa Senators defenceman Joe Corvu (centre) celebrates with teammates Chris Kelly (left) and Tom Preissing after scoring the game winning goal in the Senators 4-3 win in the second overtime period in Buffalo, N.Y. on Saturday. (CP/Frank Gunn)
"I was just trying to catch the highlight of my goal on TV in the room and I missed it," said the overtime hero. "But I told the guys, 'It's alright, I'll catch it again at 5 a.m. when I'm still awake."'
Corvo's knuckler from the blue-line 4:58 into double overtime lifted the Senators to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final. Needless to say, goal No. 37 in his NHL career tops the list.
"It's obviously the biggest goal in my life." said the 29-year-old native of Oak Park, Ill. "Just total elation when it went in. It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
So will many Senators fans, who no doubt will be rocking Scotiabank Place for Game 3 Monday night (7 p.m. ET) with their club coming home two wins shy of a trip to the Stanley Cup final.
"I wouldn't even know how to describe what it's going to be like," said Corvo. "It's going to be electric."
The Senators had been 0-8 in Games 2s after winning the opening game, but that streak is over, much like many of Ottawa's post-season crutches of years past.
"There's so much motivation in this room to prove everyone wrong this year," said Sens goalie Ray Emery, once again terrific in stopping 34 of 37 shots.
Not even an early two-goal lead by the home team nor Daniel Briere's tying goal with 5.8 seconds to go in the third period could stop Ottawa, who continues to show its resiliency in this year's playoffs.
"I told the guys going into the fifth period, 'you've shown that character all year,"' said Ottawa head coach Bryan Murray. "I know it was tough giving up that goal with 5.8 seconds left - it was tough on me - but they came back hard from that. It was a huge character win."
The Sabres not only head to Ottawa down 2-0 in the series, a daunting task at best, but also left HSBC Arena on Saturday night knowing they had lost for the first time this year after being up two goals. They were 40-0 in the regular season when up a pair and 6-0 in the post-season.
Wade Redden, Mike Fisher and captain Daniel Alfredsson also scored for the Senators, who could barely have written a better script through two games.
"It's a real achievement at this point in time, but we know we're only halfway there," said Murray.
Jochen Hecht and Thomas Vanek also scored for the Sabres, who remain scoreless on the power play in this series, going 0-for-7 in Game 2 and are now 0-for-12 in the Eastern Conference final.
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff had a surprise waiting for Ottawa in Game 2, deciding to match up Briere's line on Jason Spezza's top unit. Chris Drury's line had been matched up most of the year and all of these playoffs against the opponent's top line but Ruff shook things up after Spezza and company had too many chances in Game 1.
It also gave Briere more ice time, which had been a sore point in Game 1. And while the Senators won again, Briere played one of his better games of the post-season, leading all Buffalo skaters with 32:22 of ice time and scoring a huge goal.
Knowing their season was essentially on the line, the Sabres charged out of the gates and took it to the Senators, drawing a penalty early on because of their hard work in the offensive zone. And they thought they had a goal on the ensuing power play at 1:51, but a lengthy video review ruled it no goal, the ruling that the puck was directed in off Vanek's gloves.
"We looked hard for all angles to deem the puck was off the glove," Kris King, the NHL's director of hockey operations (Toronto), explained during the first period intermission. "And indeed it was as he was shooting and (rule) 67.6 says that you cannot direct the puck into the net with the glove."
So Vanek took it in his own hands, making a great move around Dany Heatley at 3:41 and finding the top corner on Emery while falling down.
The sellout HSBC Arena crowd of 18,690 found a new decibel level to go to after Hecht made it 2-0 at 6:13, hammering home a rebound from the faceoff dot after a series of saves from Emery.
It could easily have been 3-0 moments later by Emery stoned Jason Pominville from in-close with a superb pad save. It was a save to remember, because the comeback started moments later.
The Senators' big guns cut the lead to 2-1, Spezza finding Heatley inside the Sabres blue-line who in turn then made a perfect feed to Alfredsson who cut in from the right side and roofed it on Ryan Miller at 14:22.
The Sabres went to their dressing room to a standing ovation, having outshot the Senators 15-8 in the opening 20 minutes, a night-and-day effort from Game 1.
"I didn't think they (the Sabres) could have played any harder than they did in the first period," said Murray.
But it was Ottawa who came out flying in period 2. tying it 2-2 at 6:08 on the power play, Fisher's one-time blast from the top of the right faceoff circle beating a moving Miller.
A roughing penalty to Brian Campbell was followed one minute later by a hooking call on Dainius Zubrus, giving the Senators a 5-on-3 advantage. They didn't miss, Redden's one-time blast beating Miller top corner on the glove side with only 15.8 seconds to go in the second period, giving Ottawa the 3-2 lead.
Buffalo didn't get its first shot of the middle period until 11:30 and was outshot 9-5 overall.
The Senators played shutdown hockey in the third period, keeping the Sabres largely at bay. But Briere provided the miracle goal during a mad scramble in front of Emery, slipping in a loose puck into an empty side with Miller on the bench for the extra attacker.
The Senators outshot the Sabres 9-6 in the first overtime and Antoine Vermette thought he had a goal but his first and second shot were both stopped by Miller.
Ottawa caught a break midway through the first overtime when Alfredsson escaped punishment after hitting Henrik Tallinder from behind into the boards. The top Sabres blue-liner went to the dressing room but later came back.
"I thought it was a definitely a check from behind," said Ruff.
The Sabres did get a power-play chance in the first overtime when Corvo was called for interference at 11:31, but once again didn't really menace on the man advantage.