Sens can see Leclaire-ly now

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:15 AM ET

PITTSBURGH — Talk about tossing a guy to the wolves.

In making his first-ever playoff start, Pascal “Chocolate” Leclaire was hardly prepared. Since unfairly being pulled after allowing two goals on the first five shots March 4 in Carolina, Leclaire had made five starts, winning just one and allowing 18 goals.

“ It was a fun night,” Leclaire said of the triple-OT thriller.

“Guys blocked a lot of shots again. They had a few scoring chances right in the slot, and the guys were there with the big blocks.

“I did feel good. I felt confident in there. I felt calm. When it keeps going like that, it’s exciting. You watch these games since you were a little kid, and you want to be part of them.”

Of his previous seven starts before Thursday, only one was against a playoff team. And don’t forget, he had recorded a grand total of one victory since Dec. 31.

Then he’s called upon to save the day against the powerful Penguins?

Ahh, the Senators had to try something, right? And Brian Elliott had been playing poorly, so why not this. Plus, Leclaire is going to be taking $4.8 million of Eugene Melnyk’s money next season, either way, so it’d look better on everybody if it wasn’t as a backup.

Thing is, Leclaire surprised everyone with his performance in Game 5. He played well. Very well. Border-line outstanding. He made 56 saves. He stopped 18-of-19 shots in the second period, 13-of-14 in the third and 17 in the overtimes.

If not for him, the Senators would have never lived to see overtime.

If, if, if ....

Leclaire should have been allowed to finish that March 4 game, his first start in almost two months. He absolutely should have played more down the stretch, too.

And Thursday’s game at The Igloo should not have been his first playoff start. It should have been his fifth.

STARTS AND STOPS

There’s little doubt Daniel Alfredsson is playing with an injury. Because he doesn’t look to be able to move nearly as well as he usually does, the hunch is he was dealing with a hip-related problem. That, and the absence to injury of Filip Kuba, Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek, would be cited as to reasons why the Senators lost this series. Decent reasons they are, too ... It was after the morning skate that unwittingly, Cheapseats knocked over three of Sidney Crosby’s sticks that he had leaned up against the bench at his stall. “If he scores three tonight, you’re going to have to come back and kick them over before every game,” a Pittsburgh media person said. Crosby was limited to a goal and an assist — so the tactic worked. My e-mail is at the bottom of this column, Eugene. Just transfer the money.

THINGS I THINK I THINK

Jarkko Ruutu had an exceptional game, except for poorly timed penalties in the first and third period. Alas, the Senators survived both ... Couldn’t Nick Foligno have put the puck in that open net with his stick at 2:05 of OT? ... Matt Cooke has ticked off a lot of players in the NHL, but he really ruined Foligno’s night by diving to knock the puck away as the latter had an open side later in OT ... Chris Campoli had a look of relief on his face as Chris Kunitz’s third-period deflection was ruled no goal because the stick of the Penguins winger was too high. He probably didn’t realize the TV camera was on him at the time ... If this series has shown you anything, it’s that Kris Letang is as solid a 200-pounder as there is in the NHL. Also very underrated ... I’m not going to lie, I thought the Senators were going to lose this one by five goals ... Mike Fisher played his best, hardest game of the series. He’d reach a different status in this league if he could copy it more often.

BETWEEN PERIODS

The 35-year-old eyes of Shean Donovan were lit up like a kid’s on Christmas after the morning skate. When he admitted to be so excited about playing for just the fifth time in 36 games, he was “jumping around and stuff.” About the possibility it could have been his last NHL game, Donovan shrugged. “All I can think about is we’re in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins and getting to play here at The Igloo, it’s going to be fun.” ... Word is 45-year-old Dominik Hasek, who won the Czech League title with Pardubice, wants to play in the world championship, then re-sign with the Senators. Okay, I made up the Senators part ... Penguins helped us out with tickets for the Pirates’ worst beating ever, a 20-0 loss to the Brewers Thursday afternoon. Wound up being five of us and with only four tickets, one spent $9 on a bleacher seat, then joined the group behind home plate. Somebody split the cost with him, so for $4.50 he got a free hat, T-shirt and to witness a part of history. Glad that the guy got a deal, after we found his credit card and rang up some charges as a reward last time here.

JUST SAYIN;

Dan O’Hallaran and Brian Pochmara were the latest examples of officiating that makes you wonder. Prime example: Fisher gets pushed into Brooks Orpik by Marc-Andre Fleury, and when Orpik is left bleeding, apparently cut by Fisher’s visor, Fisher gets a double minor for high-sticking? When the camera scanned the bench as that was being called, even Orpik couldn’t contain a laugh.


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