BUFFALO - Postseason underachievers no more, Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators are in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time.
The Senators' captain scored 9 minutes, 32 seconds into overtime to post a 3-2 win over the top-seeded Buffalo Sabres, sealing the Eastern Conference finals in five games yesterday.
The Senators rallied from a 1-0 deficit and rebounded after Buffalo's Maxim Afinogenov forced overtime with a power-play goal with nine minutes left in regulation.
Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists, and Jason Spezza also scored for the new and very improved Senators, who had known only frustration in nine previous postseason trips.
Leave it to Alfredsson, who has appeared in all of the franchise's 94 playoff games, to finally push them through. Accepting Heatley's pass on the fly, Alfredsson broke over the blue line. He used Sabres defender Brian Campbell as a screen, and had his shot sneak inside the right post.
Ottawa will now wait to face Anaheim or Detroit and start that series on the road. The Western finals are tied at two, with Game 5 at Detroit today.
The Presidents' Trophy-winning Sabres were knocked out in the semifinals for the second straight year.
Jochen Hecht also scored for Buffalo and Daniel Briere had two assists as the Sabres squandered a 1-0 lead and lost their third straight home game, falling well short of their championship objective.
Ottawa appeared to take control when Heatley and Spezza scored 4:20 apart late in the second period, with Spezza's goal coming with 39 seconds remaining. But the Sabres found renewed life when Afinogenov tapped in a rebound.
The Senators, however, took over again and had the better chances down the stretch.
Antoine Vermette, on a shorthanded breakaway, had Ryan Miller beat, but his shot hit the right post.
Miller then made a remarkable save three minutes into overtime, diving across and just getting the paddle of his stick on a shot by Spezza, set up by Alfredsson at the left post.