After dominating them during the regular season, the Ottawa Senators' hopes for a Stanley Cup title ended in five hard-fought playoff games against the Buffalo Sabres.
Ottawa looks for avenge that defeat in the Eastern Conference semifinals when it meets unbeaten Buffalo at Scotiabank Place on Saturday.
The Senators (1-1-0) won five of the eight regular-season matchups last season, outscoring Buffalo 35-20 en route to winning the Northeast Division title. In the postseason though, the Sabres won in five games, all one-goal decisions.
Ottawa has made nine straight playoff appearances, but has been eliminated three times by Buffalo. After making changes in personnel, most notably signing former Carolina goaltender Martin Gerber to replace future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said his team is tougher.
"This team is different," he said. "We have grit and we have some tough guys ... You might not see us as flashy, but we're a tough team with a great attitude and great coaching."
Ottawa, though, still has plenty of offensive power. Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza - the team's top three scorers from last season - combined for 14 goals and 36 points in the regular-season series against Buffalo (2-0-0).
Alfredsson had eight goals and Spezza added 12 assists.
The Senators split a home-and-home set against the Maple Leafs to open the season. After winning 4-1 in Toronto on Wednesday, Ottawa suffered an embarrassing 6-0 loss in the team's home opener on Thursday.
"We know we were outworked," said Alfredsson, whose club was 29-9-3 at home last season. "That's not acceptable. We can only get better. I don't think you'll see too many games like that."
It also was a tough loss for Gerber, who was replaced to start the final period after allowing five goals on 24 shots. Gerber is 3-3-0 with a 3.62 goals-against average and .887 save percentage in six career starts against Buffalo.
Defenseman Tom Priessing is expected to return after missing one game with a bruised knee. Acquired in a three-team deal that sent Martin Havlat to Chicago, Priessing had 11 goals and 32 assists and a plus-17 rating in 74 games last season with San Jose.
The Sabres have won both their games this season by shootout, including a 5-4 victory over Montreal on Friday. Maxim Afinogenov tied the game with 15 seconds to play, and added a shootout tally.
"It's not a situation we want to be in every game," said Sabres captain Daniel Briere, whose first goal of the season with less than five minutes to play in regulation. "But it's definitely a lot of fun. ... We found a way to win. We're not quitters."
The Sabres have not won three in a row to start a season since 1994-95.
Afinogenov led the Sabres with 51 assists and 73 points last season. He had two goals and seven assists in seven games against Ottawa.
Buffalo is 0-for-14 with the man advantage this season after having the third-best power-play unit a year ago. The Sabres converted 21.2 percent (101 of 477) power-play chances last season - just ahead of Ottawa's 20.8 percent (102 of 490).