Muckler's eyes say it all

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

In 50-plus years of pro hockey, John Muckler has witnessed the game in its most exciting form.

It takes a lot to light up his eyes like they were after last night's barnburner with the Maple Leafs.

"This is great," the Senators GM whispered as he passed by reporters who were doing a post-shootout victory interview with Daniel Alfredsson. "It's the best entertainment that's ever been ... since 1980, anyway.

"We're back again."

Wide open, hard-hitting, fast-paced, big saves, great plays and finally decided by penalty shots? When's the next one? Tonight? Great. Wouldn't miss it.

Speaking of That:

It used to be an automatic. Now, not only can't the Leafs attract a full house (whatever that is) at the Corel Centre, but they don't even draw as well as ... the Buffalo Sabres? Huh? Only 18,680 made it out to the rink last night, which is 981 fewer than the 19,661 "sellout" that showed up to see the home opener against the Sabres on Saturday and 631 shy of the 19,311 "sellout" for a pre-season game against Toronto in September. How can that be? And we're not buying any malarkey about tickets for those two other games being half-price -- or twice as much as this one. Since when is money an issue for a ducat to the Battle of Ontario? And besides, what better would those blue-and-white die-impossibles in the Big Smoke have to do on a Thanksgiving Monday than to pack up the cooler and take a four-hour drive down the 401? Like they have a life, or something? Ha! Ah well, to you who were absent, y'all missed a dandy. I would have even paid to see it -- and it musta been something to get a sportswriter to admit that.

Meanwhile:

A word of caution to all those picking the Senators to cruise their way to a Stanley Cup championship: The Leafs, a consensus pick not to make the playoffs, are still going to be a major stumbling block for your team. Last night, they were without their captain (Mats Sundin, who also missed most of the first meeting) and most dangerous sniper (Jeff O'Neill), and the Sens still couldn't put them away in regulation time? Just sayin', objects in the rear-view mirror are often closer than they appear.

Stops and Starts:

Yes sir, times sure are a changin'. Tie Domi, who used to intimidate Senators at every turn, turned down at least two invites to dance from Brian McGrattan in the first period. After the whistle went to end their second shift together, Domi skated over to the Senators bench, where it looked like he passed a long a comment to Bryan Murray. Domi and McGrattan never did meet up, but the Leafs tough guy seemed anxious to help Dany Heatley register what probably would have been his first NHL scrap ... Ottawa's first goal, originally awarded to Heatley, was changed during the initial intermission. Right now, it belongs to Chris Neil. Sound familiar? "I even have the proof this time," smiled the Sens tough guy-turned-power-play specialist, who has had the best vantage point for most Ottawa goals this season. "The hole in my sock. It went off my shin pad." Neil scored two goals last game, but both were later changed and awarded to Heatley. One of them, we have learned, will likely be returned to Neil today. But right now, we haven't a clue how many goals either Neil or Heatley have this season.

Between Periods:

Eric Lindros was the best Leafs forward "by far" in the team's first two games, according to Toronto Star hockey writer Ken Campbell. "But that's like being the winner of a beauty contest at a leper colony," added Campbell .... Either our own Maury Amsterdam (Chris Stevenson) or editor/headline writer Trevor Bunke deserves credit for coming up with a clever nickname for sensational puck passer Jason Spezza: The Spezz Dispenser. Either way, it's Sun property ... Is it just me, or does Lyndon Slewidge hold that last note of the anthem longerrrr than he did in 2004? ... Know that Pizza Pizza promotion giving ticket-toting fans a free slice up to 48 hours after a Senators win in which the home team scores at least five goals? Had a hole in it this weekend, at least, as some people looking to cash in were told the offer was only available for the first 24 hours after the game. Moral of the story: Get out and get your piece of pie.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

New nickname for Marty Havlat could be "O." Seems that's what everyone at the Corel Centre yells, as in "Ooooh," at least once whenever he's on the ice. Unquestionably, Chris Cuthbert, he's the most exciting player in the NHL ... Fans were asked what they wanted to hear most: Ozzie Osbourne's Crazy Train or Dancing Queen by Abba. They cheered loudest for Ozzie's tune -- much to the chagrin of Alfie.

Butt Ends:

It was like Spezza was a pork chop and the puck was a dog, the way it followed him around the ice in the first period ... Leafs coach Pat Quinn, who wound up with a black eye a couple of days after being struck by a puck in the forehead at Joe Louis Arena, took a stick over the other eye last night. Today he probably looks like a raccoon. "Mandatory visors for coaches," suggested Leafs media relations guy Pat Park.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING ...

HIT OF THE NIGHT: Eric Lindros drilled Brian Pothier into the same end boards corner in which he reconstructed Andreas Dackell's face a few years ago. Seconds later, as Pothier glided into Lindros, he was slashed in the leg and cross-checked in the chops by the Big E. Mysteriously, no penalties were called.

BIGGER HIT OF THE NIGHT: Oops, we typed too soon. Zdeno Chara just rammed Lindros into the boards with enough force to move the rink a few feet further down the Queensway.

QUOTABLE: Leafs play-by-play man Joe Bowen, describing a play where one of the Maple Leafs was trying to "chop the puck" over Chara: "That's like chopping it over a Douglas fir," exclaimed Bowen.


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