McGrattan delivers pizza

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 6:45 AM ET

Either a) Bryan Murray was miked at yesterday's morning skate, b) the fact he wasn't wearing his ballcap made him seem louder than normal or c) the Senators coach was trying to get the attention of some players.

Congratulations to the 99.9% of you who voted c.

"Two-on-ones really bother me," Murray said later, meaning it makes him unhappy when the Senators fail to convert on them. "You don't get many odd-man rushes in the league any more. It's one of the areas we can be better at."

The Senators had three 2-on-1s in last night's game against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Patrick Eaves was stopped on the first. Bryan Smolinski and Brian McGrattan scored on the other two, a couple of third-period tallies than turned a 4-2 lead into a 6-2 lead on its way to a 6-4, piece of Pizza Pizza pizza-earning win.

While Smolinski's first goal in seven games turned out to be the winner, McGrattan's was greeted with the most enthusiasm. Both by teammates who love it when the club body protector scores, and by fans who love free anything.

"He made a devastating move on the goaltender," Murray said. "I thought it was a helluva shift."

"It was a long shift, I just wanted to get the puck on the net," said McGrattan, who didn't hear the "pizza" chants from the crowd that began moments before he scored.

Asked where the goal, his second as an NHLer, ranked in his career highlight package, he said: "It's all right. It's not my biggest, but it's right up there. I like fights, too. But this was a good feeling, and my mom will like it. She doesn't like the fights."

STARTS AND STOPS: If Chris Neil would have slashed Ilya Kovalchuk like Kovalchuk slashed Neil in the second period, the Senators winger would have been suspended for what, five games? Instead Kovalchuk gets two minutes and the admission to a club that once featured Brett Hull and still includes Alexei Yashin. That is, he was booed and booed loudly every time he touched the puck afterwards. "He takes a dumb penalty and we go on the power play and score," said Neil, who returned to action after x-rays on his wrist. "That's why they're battling for a playoff spot and we're in first. When your skill guy takes a penalty like that, it doesn't set a good example to the rest of the team." ... Neil said Kovalchuk apologized to him for the slash when the two lined up against each other for a faceoff late in the game. Maybe Kovalchuk thought Neil was going to lay a beating on him, it was suggested. "That's what you want him to think," said Neil. ... Said Kovalchuk: "He slashed me before the faceoff, I slashed him after. That's it. It's not a good penalty. I should stay away from those." One of the loudest cheers, naturally, was saved for the game's final minutes -- when Neil gained a slice of revenge by nailing Kovalchuk into a linesman with a hit that sent all involved to the ice ... Zdeno Chara has no idea when he'll be back in the Senators lineup. What he does know is that, two weeks after suffering a "bone bruise" on his right hand, he still can't shoot a puck. That's not a good thing. "The swelling is down and the motion is back," Chara said yesterday morning. "Strength wise, simple things like holding a stick ... it isn't there. It's very frustrating. I thought by now I'd be playing." One or two others thought he would be, too.

BETWEEN PERIODS: The simple truth about the Marty Havlat injury -- all along he was expected to miss 4-6 months, and it's now been just over four. Plus, only 15 others (and no NHL players) have had the type of shoulder surgery he required, so his ETA was pure guess work ... You might be surprised to find out that, with all the injuries, Neil was the longest-serving Senator in the lineup last night. He was playing his 293rd game wearing the jersey ... Challenging a young girl to spell "slapshot" on the videoboard during a stop in play is insulting to us in a couple of ways. For one, it isn't even close to entertaining. Two, this is Canada. Kids know how to spell slapshot before they can speak ... To no one's surprise, Ray Emery was named the NHL's defensive player of the the month yesterday. "It was good to get an opportunity to play that many games," he said of his 12-2-2 record in March. "When you've got a guy like Big Zee playing 30 minutes a night, it makes things easier. The whole defence has played well, knowing they have a young guy back there. Give them credit."

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM: The question pondered by those of us who really don't matter yesterday -- who's going to wear the 'C' with Daniel Alfredsson sick and guys like Redden, Phillips, Chara and Fisher out? "We'll have a FIFA soccer tournament, and whoever wins wears it," Jason Spezza joked yesterday morning, referring to one of the more popular video games among Senators these days. So who would win? "Marty Havlat is probably the best," said Spezza. "But since he's not playing, me, Arnie (Tyler Arnason) and Grats (McGrattan) are pretty close." Since nobody wore the letter, wonder if that means there was a draw in the deciding game and nobody was able to score in the shootout?

THE FINISH LINE: As disappointed and frustrated as he his not to be playing, Chara has maintained his sense of humour. Yesterday, he even made a size-related joke, something he rarely if ever does. "If you see whoever stole my flip flops, let me know," the big man said after addressing the media outside the team's dressing room. "What do they look like?" he was asked. His only response was to smile -- and hold his hands about two feet apart.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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