There were no cheap shots. No goon tactics. None of that unnecessary violence.
All we really saw in the opening game of the Eastern Conference final last night was decent hockey from the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres.
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Especially from the Sens.
And was that ever a breath of fresh air.
Most of the games in the NHL’s playoffs this season, after all, have been low-scoring and boring. We’ve been snoring.
Last night, however, the Sens outplayed the Sabres and recorded a 5-2 triumph in a game that featured crafty offence and, thankfully, none of the lunacy that many feared.
If bad blood exists between the Sens and Sabres because of what happened when they met on Feb. 22, it wasn’t evident last night.
In fact, the Sabres looked like they were suffering from tired blood, especially in the third period, when they were outscored 3-0.
“We did a great job of minimizing their chances,” Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery said, “and getting our fair share.”
It was on Feb. 22 when Ottawa’s Chris Neil smashed Buffalo star Chris Drury with a vicious and memorable elbow to the head. The hit sparked roughing that resulted in about 100 minutes in penalties and Drury wound up missing four games because of a concussion.
The Sabres had been hinting about exacting revenge in this series but they got none whatsoever last night as they never led in the game and squandered their home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series.
Ottawa, the only Canadian-based squad remaining in the post-season, turned in a total team effort, with plenty of legal hits, formidable defence, sharp netminding from Emery and key contributions from their high-powered forwards, including Mike
Fisher, Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza.
But even their lesser lights chipped in. Oleg Saprykin, for instance, notched a goal that wound up being the game winner, at 7:41 of the third period.
The Sens, folks, are on a roll. They closed the regular season by going 31-7-8 and they’re now 9-2 in the post-season.