No Philly freedom this night

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

For Bryan Murray, the choices were tantalizing. When Carolina defenceman Mike Commodore covered the puck with his hand in the crease, Murray was in the position to select any of his highly skilled Senators who were on the ice to take the penalty shot.

The options included Dany Heatley, who had earlier scored his 24th of the season. And Daniel Alfredsson, who kept pace with his linemate a little later on by scoring his 24th. And Bryan Smolinski, who had also tallied (his seventh) on this night with a fine, fine shot from the slot. And Zdeno Chara, who too has seven, including three in his last five games.

And Chris Phillips, who hasn't scored an NHL goal since March 31, 2004.

Naturally, Murray went with Phillips.

"He made the choice, and the players wanted him to do it," said the Senators coach, whose team was leading 5-1 in the third period at the time on a night it would eventually take home its second consecutive 6-2 victory. "I thought he must be really good at it or something."

Au contraire, monsieur.

Phillips, a defensively focused blueliner, wanted to end his 21-month drought and bury the goose egg that sits beside his name and under the 'Goals' column in the program. The only Senators player not to score this season wanted badly for that to change, and so did his teammates.

Phillips also thought the fact that he had just hit the post before Commodore's coverup was "a sign." So he resorted to a little begging and pleading.

"I told (Murray), 'I want the ball," Phillips said later. "He passed me over the first time."

How?

"He said, 'I think I'll pass,' " continued Phillips. "But I wasn't taking no for an answer, and the guys on the bench were offering some encouragement."

Much to the delight of his friends in similar sweaters, Phillips lined up for the penalty shot. When signalled, he skated in on Martin Gerber and let go a shot the 'Canes goalie blocked with his left leg.

Asked the advice he would have given Phillips in hindsight, Mike Fisher said: "Get up a little more speed and try not to shoot at his pad."

Phillips, who is now goal-less in 36 games, had a plan from the outset.

"I was definitely shooting ... it was late in the period and they weren't bringing out the Zamboni for me," he said. "I don't think (Gerber) had to move that much, but I'll have to watch the tape.

"I'm pretty sure you won't see me in the next shootout."

Record Setters:

The Senators have now boasted 14 sellouts in 18 home dates, but none as impressive as last night's attendance of 20,050. It surpassed the previous franchise record of 19,935 and was, quite likely, the biggest gathering ever to attend an NHL game in Ontario. The only other 20,000-plus crowd for a hockey game at the Corel Centre was last Dec. 30 -- also at Bell Capital Cup time -- when 20,081 turned out for an Ottawa 67's-Kingston Frontenacs game. "This week has really shown we deserve the name Hockey Country," Senators president and CEO Roy Mlakar said between the second and third periods. "I flew back from Chicago with 40 kids (yesterday) who were going to (last night's) 67's (Frontenacs) game (also a sellout) at the Civic Centre. A year later, after what we've been through (with an NHL shutdown), this bodes well for Ottawa." Indeed, that the nation's capital is currently hosting the world's largest minor hockey tournament helps, there are a whole lot of visitors to the community who are just plain hockey crazy. Hence, it can't be a fluke that the Senators scheduled three home games this week. Surpassing 20,000 again tomorrow, when the Islanders provide the opposition, is a very real prospect. So what's the new limit? By law, 20,500. And at the rate they're going, the Senators will get there.

Starts and Stops

And so grows the legend of Chris Kelly, a rookie who's looking more and more like a veteran every day. "I guess he would have felt, like he did with (Jeff) Cowan, that he was less than a team player if he didn't (fight)," said Murray, referring to a scrap invitation Kelly accepted from the Los Angeles tough guy earlier this season. "It was unfortunate we lost him but it shows his character." ... Another indicator of how the community has gone Senators nuts -- only 5,615 tickets remain available for the team's 11 home games scheduled before the Olympic break in February ... How annoying it was to reporters on deadline having to listen to Hurricane scratches bouncing coins off a table in the private box behind them during the third period. Maybe if they paid more attention to the hockey game rather than their coin game, they wouldn't be scratches.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

SHOW STOPPER: With all the 'Best Of' lists coming out at this time of year, it should be noted that a first-period flurry of action that saw a mostly stickless Dominik Hasek make four saves was his absolute best 20 seconds or so as a Senator.

HAPPY AND HE KNOWS IT: After scoring Ottawa's sixth goal on a shorthanded breakaway, a speeding Antoine Vermette ran right into referee Dave Jackson. He was probably just trying to hold the official up from falling, but it sure looked like he was giving him a celebratory hug.

A SLICE OF LIFE: The Senators are now 25-0 when they score four or more goals this season -- and still the best thing that ever happened to Pizza Pizza.


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