A near-perfect day for the Senators

DON BRENNAN, OTTAWA SUN

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

On the slippery surface, the Senators were near perfect yesterday.

On the video scoreboard, however, they committed a major faux pas.

During a first-period stoppage in a skit promoting the team's Hockey Night in Barbados fan contest, Spartacat forced a fellow wearing a Montreal Canadiens jersey to jump off a ship.

Most any other game, against any other opponent, and the pre-taped schtick might have been mildly amusing. But with the Habs in town, it was extremely distasteful.

On Dec. 8, Bob Gainey's daughter Laura was swept off the deck of a ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Her body was never found.

The NHL and its followers mourn the loss of the Habs' GM's daughter, and the Montreal media was immediately outraged at the Senators indiscretion.

"It was disgusting," Yvon Pedneault, who does play-by-play on RDS, told his audience and then Cheapseats during the intermission.

"If you know Bob Gainey ... it's just a lack of respect. It's such a big tragedy, and to make fun of it? The guy is having such a tough time. I couldn't believe it when I saw it, to tell you the truth."

The Senators spent a chunk of the afternoon doing damage control for the unintentional yet nonetheless stupid and careless disregard of a sensitive situation.

After the game, CEO/president Roy Mlakar said that he and owner Eugene Melnyk had already issued apologies to Habs president Pierre Boivin and managing partner Foster Gillett.

If there is one small consolation, it's that Gainey was not in attendance.

"We humbly apologize for the unthinkable oversight," said Mlakar. "There is no excuse for such bad judgment."

None whatsoever.

STARTS AND STOPS: How key have the contributions of Daniel Alfredsson been to the Senators' surge? The first-period goal by the captain turned out to be his third game-winner in the team's last three games. Alfredsson now has five GWGs as the team has won nine of its last 11, but admits the stats can be somewhat misleading. "Against New York, I scored the goal to make it 5-0, and today I scored to make it 4-0," he said. "Against Boston, it felt more like a game-winning goal. Sometimes it makes the difference." ... Humorous was the lower section row of fans wearing Habs jerseys and paper bags over their heads in embarrassment after the first period. Question is, did they go to the nearby Loblaws during the intermission, or did they arrive at Scotiabank Place yesterday expecting the worst?

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: Antoine Vermette appeared to score a ninth goal for Ottawa on a last-minute breakaway, but it was the blade of his stick that wound up in the net while the puck skittered off into the corner of the rink. "I was playing with that stick for two periods, and Patrick Eaves told me it looked like it was broken," said Vermette. "I knew it was a little off, and (on the breakaway) it felt a little weak. I was expecting it (to snap off) but I thought I would take a chance. I got the blade in the net, at least." ... Good thing the Senators didn't sign Yanic Perreault when they were mulling it over earlier in the season, eh? That would have given them one more player -- along with Dany Heatley plus young guns Eaves and Andrej Meszaros -- who would have their all-star break sun-and-fun plans spoiled by having to play in another dumb old hockey game .... The two best stickhanding exhibitions of the day were performed by Alex Kovalev, just prior to Craig Rivet's goal, and Alfredsson, who spun his opposite number (the other '11', Habs captain Saku Koivu) into the ice with some dipsy-doodling in the third.

BETWEEN PERIODS: The Heatley-Chris Kelly-Alfredsson line is now a combined plus-34 in the team's last four games. Does that say anything? "What can I say, things are going great," offered Kelly, speaking for both himself and the team. "Our eighth goal goes off six of their guys and winds up in the back of the net. It shows the way things were going for us and for them." ... Vermette was involved in the two biggest collisions of the day. He was drilled by Habs D Michael Komisarek in the third and bumped hard with teammate Peter Schaefer at the Montreal blue line in the first. "We haven't practised together a lot lately," Vermette, who recently missed six games with a hip injury, said of his face-to-face with Schaefer. "I'll take the blame for that." ... Chris Neil, who had a dispute with Vermette during a practice a few weeks ago, went after Komisarek following the aforementioned hit. "He's a good team guy, Chris Neil," said Vermette. "He did a tremendous job there."

BOTTOM SHELF: Stuntma and Stuntpa were in the crowd and heard their son Stu live for the first time in his gig as an NHL P.A. announcer. They heard him yak a lot, too ... The 20 shots on goal by the Senators in the first were the most they've had in a period this season ... Those wanting to support the fight against prostate cancer and get a ticket-price break for the Feb. 28 game against Carolina at the same time should contact David Neilson (sensridefordad@sympatico.ca). He'll have $60 mid-300 level seats available for $45 until his mitt-full is gone or Jan. 31, whichever comes first.


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