PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Martin Straka got the victory. Mario Lemieux got the save.
The Pittsburgh Penguins forced a Game 7 by beating the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 Tuesday night, and the record books will show Straka won it by beating Dominik Hasek at 11:29 of overtime.
It was one of the most dramatic goals in Penguins playoff history, and sets up what becomes a one-game playoff for a trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
Remarkably, it wasn't even the biggest goal of the game.
Lemieux scored that late in the third period, 78 seconds before the Penguins' season would have ended and the Sabres would have advanced to the conference finals for the third time in four years.
"What can you say?" Darius Kasparaitis said. "The hockey gods were on our side."
Hasek, however, was on the Sabres' side, and that seemed good enough until the Penguins got one of those lucky bounces that can win titles -- and, conversely, break hearts.
Only 15 seconds after goalie Johan Hedberg was pulled for an extra attacker, Alexei Kovalev's shot rebounded high into the air off Curtis Brown's skate and landed near the crease.
Lemieux, at the left of the net, poked at it once, then twice, finally sliding it by Hasek for his 76th career playoff goal and, certainly, one of the most memorable.
"Hasek didn't see it at all. I just whacked it in," said Lemieux, who ended a 3 1/2-year retirement in December to take another run at the Stanley Cup.
It was yet another save for Lemieux, the player-owner who kept the Penguins in Pittsburgh less than two years ago by buying them in bankruptcy court.
"He saved the team off the ice and I guess you could say he saved the team again," the Sabres' Rhett Warrener said.
Straka could only smile when asked about Lemieux's goal, saying, "Mario did it again."
Not long after that, Straka did it again with his second overtime goal of the playoffs. The first came in the decisive Game 6 against Washington -- which, until Tuesday, represented the Penguins' last home playoff victory at home.
As so often happens in playoff hockey, one team got most of the good scoring chances in overtime, only to have the other team win it.
After Hedberg stopped several wide-open Sabres shots, Robert Lang shoved Dimitri Kalinin off the puck along the rear boards and Kovalev passed it in front of the net to Straka, who put it past Hasek.
"I just wanted to hit the net. I didn't even think about it. In overtime, you have to keep getting the puck on the net and try to get lucky," Straka said.
Now, after being so close to ending the series, the Sabres must risk their fate in a Game 7 Thursday night in Buffalo. The winner will play the survivor of Wednesday's Game 7 between New Jersey and Toronto in the conference finals.
Wednesday's other final contest is at Denver between Los Angeles and Colorado in the Western Conference. The winner will play St. Louis in the next round.
"The pressure is on everyone in a Game 7," Hasek said. "I'm just glad we have home-ice advantage."
But road teams are 14-8 in this round.
The Penguins' late dramatics not only ended their three-game losing streak, they may have swung the momentum that had been going Buffalo's way since the Sabres won Games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh.
"If you had to pick a way to get to Game 7, this would be the way," Kevin Stevens said.
Especially when it seemed for so long it would be a game the Penguins wouldn't play, even as they outshot the Sabres 33-18 in the most up-and-down game of the series.
"Obviously, the pressure is on us to win in our building," Dave Andreychuk said. "We were 1:18 away from closing the series out. Obviously, it's tough to swallow, but you can't dwell on it. It's a bounce they got -- and we have to bounce back from it."
The Penguins rebounded twice from Sabres' leads, answering Maxim Afinogenov's breakaway goal midway through the first period with Kovalev's at 5:14 of the second. Then, after Donald Audette's goal at 16:12 of the second held up for more than a period, Lemieux sent it to overtime.
"I said that if we could win Game 6, I liked our chances in Game 7," Stevens said. "I still do."
The Sabres like their chances, too, even if the Penguins won Games 1 and 2 in Buffalo and led late in Game 5 until the Sabres rallied to win 3-2 in overtime.
"A Game 7 is like going to a casino," Kasparaitis said. "You roll the dice and take your chances."
Notes: Jaromir Jagr had a goal taken away in the second after replays showed the puck went in off his skate, not his stick. ... Buffalo is 0-15 in playoff series it trailed 2-0, but the Sabres never have lost any of the four playoff series they led 3-2. ... Pittsburgh lost Game 6 in the second round at home to Philadelphia in 2000 and to Toronto in 1999, both by one goal.
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