Battered Dom triumphs

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:36 PM ET

Senators 5, Kings 1

Dominik Hasek had a rough one last night. He was even pulled in the third period.

At the same time, the Senators goalie was also named the game's first star, registered his 14th win of the season, lowered his sterling goals- against average and improved his save percentage, which was already one of the best in the NHL.

Huh, you say?

"It was a weird situation," offered Hasek, speaking through a cut and swollen mouth, as he stood outside the dressing room following the wild 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

"I don't remember the last time I lost my helmet in a game, and it happened twice (last night)."

The first was courtesy of a left jab from Kings super pest Sean Avery, who was standing behind the Ottawa net after coming a little too close for Hasek's comfort in the crease seconds earlier.

"I went to talk to him," said Hasek, "and he punched me."

Minutes later, Craig Conroy was cruising through the crease and, as he was falling, kicked Hasek in the head.

"I don't think that was intentional," said Hasek.

"It was," said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who went after Conroy. "But it was still goalie interference (before the boot)."

Sensing the game might get out of hand, Senators coach Bryan Murray replaced Hasek with noted pugilist Ray Emery with 3:21 to go in the game.

Goalie switches are often greeted by cheers from the home town crowd, but this was louder, with a blood thirsty tinge to it.

"It was just insurance, in case somebody came at me," said Hasek. "Razor, I know he can fight. I can still stop the puck, but I don't think I can fight anymore."

That makes them a perfect tag team, especially on nights like this.

Starts and Stops:

Murray said rookie fourth-liner Chris Kelly "might have been our best forward" in Thursday's 3-0 road loss to Boston. Last night, Kelly was the Cheapseats Player Of The Game. His perfect pass sent Antoine Vermette in for a shorthanded goal late in the second, a Los Angeles backbreaker as it put the Senators up 3-1. But that's not the half of it. Kelly showed some serious gonads in dropping the gloves with veteran tough guy Jeff Cowan in the third period. It was Kelly's first NHL fight and one of many for Cowan, who earlier in the night had politely declined an invitation to fight Ottawa enforcer Brian McGrattan. Cowan tuned Kelly but good -- fact is, we tried to have a word with the Ottawa player after the game but we either didn't see or could no longer recognize him. Kelly gets huge kudos for courage .... We're thinking Tim Gleason wasn't so big on Cowan's idea to beat up Kelly, as he suffered the consequences and paid for it with his nose when Zdeno Chara sent a "don't touch our non-fighters" message shortly thereafter ... Gotta love Avery's heart, if question his intelligence. In the past week or so, he has had Nashville's Darcy Hordichuk and Chicago's Mark Bell going berserk trying to feed him his lunch. "He's doing his role really well," Chara said yesterday. "He's drawing some penalties and giving his team some power plays. (When you play him) you have to suck it up sometimes. You know the guy is not a really big threat, he's just running around trying to get you a penalty." He also leads the NHL in penalties himself. And fights, occasionally. In the first period, Avery objected to a beauty hit by Mike Fisher on Eric Belanger and dropped the gloves with Ottawa's No. 12. Avery and Fisher, who fought once in junior, proceeded with a short but lively middleweight bout at centre ice. Fisher gets the victory in a close call.

Between Periods:

Senators winger Brandon Bochenski stood out both with the goal-scorer's goal in the first period and a burst of speed in a rink-long dash in the third ... Los Angeles rookie Dustin Brown made an impact with a couple of big hits, one on Anton Volchenkov and another on Dany Heatley. He paid for the latter in the third when he was creamed by Chris Neil, who earned a game misconduct for hitting him from behind ... Hasek stopped two Kings breakaways. The first, a Conroy short-handed effort, by staying back in his net. The second time, he challenged Alexander Frolov big time, racing out three-quarters of the way to the blue line before diving at the puck.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

OFF TRACK: Veteran Los Angeles centre Jeremy Roenick missed last night's game with the flu. How did he get it? "It could have been while we were blowing by him on the racetrack (Thursday)," joked Kings coach Andy Murray, who took his team go-carting on a bonding trip in Gatineau during their day off.

SOUNDS OF SILENCE: How does the Kings' Sean Avery deal with arguably being the most hated man in the National Hockey League? For one thing, he says he doesn't read the papers. "And I wear ear plugs on the ice," he said prior to last night's game. Almost believed him, too.

net points: You'd expect that a healthy Dominik Hasek would be at or near the top of the key goaltending statistical categories -- save percentage and goals-against average -- but you'd probably be surprised that the Senators goaltender's stiffest challenge for both crowns is currently coming from Minnesota Wild part-timer Manny Fernandez. Odds on the race are available at BetUS.com.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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