- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

For miles around the Canadian capital of Ottawa, bedlam has been the order of the day since the Senators got an overtime goal just after 10 p.m. Wednesday to beat New Jersey and force a deciding game in the Eastern Conference finals.

Hard to figure what all the fuss is about, since the Senators were in the Stanley Cup finals just 76 years ago.

Ottawa and New Jersey will meet tonight to decide which team advances to meet the upstart Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Stanley Cup finals, beginning Tuesday at one of the two Eastern locations.

A Game 7 is needed because the Devils have been outplayed in Games 5 and 6, both won by the Senators to tie the series at 3. Ottawa is trying to become the fourth team this postseason to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win the series. Ottawa already has won two elimination games after the franchise had gone 0-6 previously.

This team? Teams from Ottawa have been competing for the Cup since 1894 and two of them, the Silver Seven and the original Senators, won it a total of seven times before the NHL took over the pewter mug in 1917. The original Senators’ last championship before disbanding was in 1927 when they beat Boston.

The new, 11-year-old Senators will gain their first Cup berth with a win tonight on home ice, a right the club won when it finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL. Visitors have won nearly half of the 81 games played this playoff season but the history of seventh games is not so generous — home teams have won 64 of the 109 deciding games played, a bad omen for the Devils.

“I mean, it’s still the same situation as the last two games — if we don’t win, the season’s over,” said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, throwing a bit of level-headed realism at reporters yesterday at the Corel Centre in suburban Kanata. “We’re going to have to play the same way, same desperation if not more. … If we’re not at our best, we won’t win. And if we don’t win [today], game 5 and 6 doesn’t mean anything.”

The Devils were crushed by losing in their own building to a team they had failed to put away despite two opportunities, eons of experience and one of the best goaltenders of this era, Martin Brodeur.

The winning goal Wednesday night came nearly 16 minutes into overtime when Devils defenseman Colin White looked over and thought Scott Stevens, a sure Hall-of-Fame inductee, couldn’t handle Marian Hossa one-on-one. White left his spot in front of the net guarding Brodeur and went to the right boards. Hossa snapped the puck into the slot, where Vaclav Varada whacked it twice before defenseman Chris Phillips vaulted in from the left point and ripped it into the top right corner.

“We’re obviously very happy right now with the situation we’re in,” Phillips said. “We’ve been in two elimination games and we’re home for Game7. It’s exactly what we set out to do a couple days ago.”

But few people outside Ottawa thought they had much of a chance. The Senators’ history was to get roughed up in postseason and bow out, quietly and meekly.

“It’s funny,” the late-blooming Phillips said. “When you look back at the last few years when we’ve been eliminated and we come in the next year and say, ‘Now we know what it takes.’

“I don’t think we could honestly answer that back then. Now that we know what it really does take, it takes every guy leaving everything out there on the ice. You can’t take one shift off — it could cost you the game, the series, your season.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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