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Senators remain confident despite giving Sabres hint of life

NHL.com @NHL

OTTAWA (AP) -It's going to take more than the Ottawa Senators' first playoff loss this month to rattle forward Jason Spezza and his teammates.

After all, they have a commanding 3-1 edge over the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference finals, and remain one victory from clinching their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals.

"It's disappointing, but it's not the end of the world," Spezza said Thursday, a day after the Senators lost 3-2. "We're a little upset because we don't like losing hockey games, but we knew it wasn't going to be easy."

The defeat snapped a franchise-best, six-game playoff win streak. It was the first loss for the Senators since a 3-2 double-overtime loss to New Jersey on April 28 in Game 2 of their second-round series and only their third of the postseason.

Ottawa has two days off to stew about what went wrong and prepare for Game 5 at Buffalo on Saturday.

"You've got to keep an even keel," captain Daniel Alfredsson said after a brief team meeting. "Playoffs are not a breeze. You just can't go through and expect everything to go your way. You're going to have to face adversity."

The top-seeded Sabres have faced enough tests so far, and finally figured out a way to respond, even though they nearly blew a 3-0 lead Wednesday.

Ryan Miller stopped 31 shots, including 15 in the final period, and the Sabres rattled the Senators when Derek Roy opened the scoring 9 seconds in.

The Sabres hung on to bounce back from two demoralizing losses. They squandered a two-goal lead in a 4-3 double-overtime loss in Game 2 and then came out flat two days later, managing a mere 15 shots, in a 1-0 loss.

"It was a big road win," Chris Drury said after an optional skate in Buffalo. "Everything had been going their way in the series, so to get one on the road and come back, we know how excited our fans are."

Daniel Briere hoped the win might raise some doubt in the Senators.

"As soon as you start losing, there's a red flag that goes up in your head," Briere said. "I don't know how they are going to approach this loss or how they're dealing with that. All I know is on our side, it's a little bit of momentum."

Not all the news was good for Buffalo.

Forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to miss Game 5 with what the team is calling a lower body injury. Zubrus has been the Sabres top checking forward, playing a key role in containing the New York Rangers' and New York Islanders' top lines in the first two rounds.

Zubrus only played 4 minutes in Game 4, but the Sabres still managed to shut out the Senators top line of Alfredsson, Spezza and Dany Heatley. One of those three players had registered at least a point in Ottawa's first 13 playoff games.

Even so, the Senators have an NHL-best 11-3 record this postseason and remain on a remarkable roll. The loss Wednesday was only the 18th in the Senators' past 60 games (42-10-8) dating to Dec. 23.

The Senators also have history on their side. The top-seeded Sabres are attempting to become only the third NHL team to win a seven-game series when down 3-0.

"We let one slip away the other night, but we have to keep it going and have that killer instinct," Spezza said.

Ottawa has rebounded from its previous two losses by eliminating New Jersey and Pittsburgh in five games in the first two rounds.

Defenseman Chris Phillips is taking nothing for granted, not even the way the team rallied after falling behind 3-0.

"Well, that looks good on paper, and it's another test of the character that we have in that room," he said. "But in saying that, the game's over."

The key is to focus on winning Saturday.

"We don't want to just lollygag through this and say, 'We're going to get the next win,"' Phillips said. "We have to go, and they're not going to give it to us. We have to work to get that win."

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