Sens must Pen Round 1 story

Ottawa Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson takes a shot against the Buffalo Sabres in Ottawa on...

Ottawa Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson takes a shot against the Buffalo Sabres in Ottawa on April 10, 2010. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:28 AM ET

If the Senators are going to Round 2 of the playoffs, they’ll have to get through Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the defending champion Penguins to do it.

Determined Saturday night was an opening-round matchup that will put Ottawa up against Pittsburgh in a best-of-seven series that is likely to start Wednesday in Pennsylvania.

The Senators will be participating in their first playoffs since 2008, when they were swept 4-0 in the first round by the Penguins. The two teams' only other post-season battle was one year earlier, when the Senators disposed of Pittsburgh in five games during a first-round series that was a stepping stone to their one and only berth in the Stanley Cup final.

The Senators and Penguins split their season series in 2009-10, 2-2.

Meanwhile, after a grand salute to Ottawa’s favourite Swede, a visiting Austrian took over centre stage at Scotiabank Place Saturday night.

The Senators watched Sabres sniper Thomas Vanek spoil their season finale and throw a damper on Daniel Alfredsson appreciation night with a four-goal performance, becoming just the fourth player to ever net that many in a game against Ottawa.

The 5-2 loss was Ottawa’s first to Buffalo in 10 games dating back to Jan. 6, 2009.

Cory Clouston started backup goalie Pascal Leclaire, who made 25 saves, while Buffalo went with their bread-and-butter, Ryan Miller. He made 28 saves.

The Senators also called up defenceman Brian Lee and forward Zack Smith from Binghamton, gave veteran winger Shean Donovan a rare chance to play, and sat out Anton Volchenkov, Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon.

Donavan and Chris Neil scored the Senators goals while Ottawa native Derek Roy had the other Sabres goal.

In the background of this one were constant, appropriate distractions as messages were played on the videoboard throughout the night congratulating Alfredsson for playing his 1,000th game in Florida Tuesday and becoming just the 44th player in NHL history to suit up for that many games with the same team.

When the Senators stepped on the ice for the pre-game warmup, they were all wearing a No. 11 on their back in honour of Alfredsson. There was also a No. 11 painted on the ice behind each net, and a red Senators t-shirt commemorating Alfredsson’s 1,000th game waiting on every seat for the fans.

The pre-game ceremony included a video tribute to Alfredsson, who was joined on the ice by his wife Bibbi, their sons Hugo, Loui and Fenix, plus NHL exec Jim Gregory, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray. Alfredsson was presented gifts that included a custom painting by local artist Tony Harris, a silver puck from Melnyk, crystal awards from the NHL for his 1000th game and 600th assist, a silver stick from his teammates and a Frolunda Indians jersey (No. 1000, of course) from his former Swedish team.

After a long and loud ovation, and as Alfredsson spoke his thank yous into the microphone, different leather lungs in the crowd could be heard shouting “We love you Alfie.” After he expressed his gratitude to the most “passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic fans in the NHL, he told the audience: “It’s an honour to be the captain of your team.” That ignited the loudest “Alfie” chant of the night. It only got louder when he tried to continue speaking, causing Alfredsson to giggle and tell the folks “it’s hard enough as it is.”

Alfredsson would have sent them into hysterics had he scored on glorious setup by Jason Spezza about three minutes into the first period. But his slapshot at the wide open side went just wide.

Andy Sutton set the tone for what would turn into a chippy game when he crushed Drew Staffor with one of his patented hits in front of the Ottawa bench early in the first.

Vanek, who had missed the previous six games with a lower body injury, scored the only two goals of the first period. After Neil broke Miller’s shutout, Vanek scored twice more to have four by the 13:12 mark of the second.

One was on a penalty shot after he was slashed by Sutton on a breakaway, while the other came when he batted puck into the open side.

Meanwhile, Senators fans chanted “Alfie” throughout the final two minutes of the third.


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