- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2003

When the New Jersey Devils applied a little pressure in Game4 Saturday afternoon, the Ottawa Senators collapsed. Ottawa’s goalie let in three of the seven shots he faced in the third period, the team’s scorers didn’t score and its defenders didn’t defend.

New Jersey leads the best-of-7 Eastern Conference finals 3-1, and that’s just the start of the depressing list of stats for the Senators.

Ottawa, which plays host to New Jersey tonight at 7:30 in Game5, is 0-6 in games where it faces elimination. The Senators have lost three straight, matching their longest slide of the season. The Devils are 8-0 lifetime in series in which they hold a 3-1 lead.

Things are looking so bad for the Senators that already in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, the discussion is centering on who will replace coach Jacques Martin. Martin, the team’s coach for the past seven season, has Ottawa in the conference finals for the first time, but apparently the natives want more. As the lone remaining Canadian team in the playoffs, the country has pinned it’s hopes on the Senators to become the first Canadian team since Montreal in 1993 to bring the Stanley Cup back home.

The reason for the Senators’ struggles is their offensive threats have disappeared — Daniel Alfredsson, Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat, three of the best right wings in the league, have combined for no goals in this series and only three assists.

Need more? Ottawa goalie Patrick Lalime, who had an 8-3 record this playoff season before this series started, is 1-3 against the Devils with a save percentage of .879.

On the other hand, New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur is showing why he is a candidate for two major postseason awards, the Vezina Trophy for top goalie, and the Hart Trophy as MVP. He has been a solid backstop when the team has had a rare bad period. He was there for the team Saturday afternoon, hanging tough long enough for the Devils to kick it into gear. His save percentage against Ottawa is .947, only a point or two short of sensational.

“We haven’t been good enough,” Alfredsson, the Ottawa captain, said yesterday after a 30-minute team meeting. “There’s no way around it. And we know we have to get better. That’s the challenge.”

There appeared to be no doubt in the players’ eyes as they faced reporters after the meeting, or if there was doubt, they hid it well. There’s reason for confidence. The Senators finished the regular season with the most points, 113, of any of the 30 NHL clubs.

“Absolutely, we believe we can win,” said defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn, who played very briefly for the Caps. “It’s a huge game for us and we will respond. You don’t get to this point without being a successful team. What we’ve done this year gives us confidence that we can continue to win. We haven’t got here by fluke. We were the best team in the league all year and we played well in the playoffs up to this point.

“It would be one thing if you’ve played your best the entire series and you’re down 3-1. But we haven’t played our best. We’re capable of beating anyone in the league and that’s the way we feel right now.”

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