No sympathy for the Devil

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Keep the pedal to the metal.

A month before the playoffs -- as the Senators are poised to take over top spot in the league while reaching the 100-point plateau for the third straight season and fifth time in seven NHL years -- that's the message Bryan Murray is still preaching to his players.

Just as they don't want to let up tonight when hosting the lowly Penguins, the Senators took their coach's words to heart in Sunday's victory over a team they will have over for a rematch in a week's time -- and one they could very well meet in the first round of the post-season tournament.

Meanwhile, the Senators had a message of their own for Erik Rasmussen and the New Jersey Devils as the teams congregated immediately following Ottawa's 4-0 win.

GOOFY RULE

Suffice it to say -- with the goofy new league rule that suspends and fines instigators in the final five minutes of a game -- there could be some fireworks when the handcuffs are off and the Devils are here next Tuesday.

"I can't repeat that in the paper," Senators winger Chris Neil said yesterday when asked what he told Rasmussen after the veteran winger tried to decapitate Ottawa newcomer Tyler Arnason in the neutral zone late in the game. "You've got to let him know you can't let him run around like that. I just told him, we play them one more time."

Zdeno Chara was also "disappointed" in Rasmussen's actions, and he told him so.

"I thought it was an attempt to almost injure," said Chara. "He had his elbow really high and his stick flew across his head ... I didn't like it at all and I felt it should be addressed."

Thus, the post-buzzer discussion.

Now, it's quite possible Rasmussen was yesterday feeding New York writers a perfectly acceptable reason for hunting Senators when he did. Ottawa's fourth goal was scored on a 5-on-3 power play, with 54 seconds left in the game. The Senators had their top power-play unit on the ice -- Chara up front (giving Martin Brodeur an eyeful of his rump) with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Wade Redden on the points -- despite having the win firmly in their grasp.

"It's the only group I have for the 5-on-3," was Murray's sketchy explanation yesterday. "The other (power-play) group hasn't practised it."

And who would dare entrust a two-man advantage to an untested group, especially with a three-goal lead and a minute left in the game?

If Murray was in fact responding to any abuse dished out during the night (New Jersey led in the hit count, 18-9), he wasn't saying. And neither were his players.

"The message to us is clear ... play to the end of the game," said Chara, who was credited with that fourth goal (his 14th of the season) when Alfredsson's slap shot deflected off his stick and knee. "It doesn't matter if the score is 5-0 or 2-1. You want to score, and send the message you won't take it easy. That's the way it's got to be."

A victory over the Penguins -- who dropped a 1-0 decision to Toronto and scored a 5-4 shootout victory over Montreal in their last two outings against Canadian teams dog-fighting for a playoff spot -- would guarantee Ottawa's hold on first in the Eastern Conference for another day.

MONITORING HURRICANES

The Senators are currently two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes, who will become the second-favourite team of out-of-town-scoreboard watching Senators fans at Scotiabank Place on this night, at least, as they will be squaring off against the Leafs at the same time.

Beating Sidney Crosby's team would also inch the Senators past the idle Detroit Red Wings, improving their record to 47-15-6 and making them the first team to reach the 100-point mark this season.

"This team has been playing really well (9-1-1) since the Olympic break," said goalie Ray Emery, who will be making his 12th straight start tonight. "(First place) is where we've had our sights set all year. It's exciting. It's definitely great to be in that spot."


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