Cheers for Fisher, chants for Phillips

Predators forward Mike Fisher. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency)

Predators forward Mike Fisher. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:43 PM ET

OTTAWA - Two of the finest gentlemen in Senators history were given standing ovations on consecutive breaks midway through the first period Thursday night.

Mike Fisher’s was louder.

All the love was being poured on Chris Phillips by the end of the game, however.

After his second goal in his 1,000th NHL game, they were even chanting “Phillips, Phillips, Phillips” the way they sing “Alfie, Alfie, Alfie” for Daniel Alfredsson at Scotiabank Place.

Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better.

Not only did Phillips tally his first two of the season, but he played a strong, energized game that overshadowed a couple of giveaways.

That’s the Big Rig the Senators need to see on a regular basis.

STARTS AND STOPS

Alex Auld entered the night as the, ahem, least successful goalie in the NHL, if only for the fact no other ’tender had just one win in as many appearances (12) as the Senators’ backup. That set up a Worst vs. First matchup, as Nashville’s Pekka Rinne is considered by some to be the league’s best. The underdog was in the driver’s seat until the second-last minute of the opening period, when somebody named Gabriel Bourque tied the game with a wrister through Auld’s seven-hole. A goalie has to make that save for his team ... On the bright side, Auld did stop the first five shots he faced ... If Carrie Underwood was indeed at The Bank watching her husband’s first game back, I didn’t notice her on the big videoboard. Maybe she was in the back of a suite, watching American Idol to find out if that chick who fell off the stage Wednesday was okay?

STUFF I THINK I THUNK

The way things have been going for the Senators, it was surprising Jason Spezza didn’t break something when he slammed a fist into the glass to celebrate the end of his goal drought at eight games. The thud could be heard above the roars of the crowd, all the way up in the pressbox ... Remaining cold was Milan Michalek, whose slump extended to 12 games. Earlier in the season, he would not have been denied on that point-blank chance he had near the end of the first. Michalek had a couple of deflections on the same second-period power play — one stopped brilliantly by Rinne, the other going just wide of the open side — that would have found mesh in October, as well ... Senators fans continue to confuse and confound us by cheering wildly for a mid-game out-of-town update that shows the Leafs down by one to Philadelphia. Don’t look now folks, but you should have bigger concerns in your own backyard ... If there’s any thought being given to sending Jim O’Brien back to Binghamton, the former first-rounder dug his heels in with another decent game ... Not sure exactly what happened on the second Predators goal — hard to determine looking at the replay on the cottage TVs in the press box — but it looked like Auld should have stopped that one, too. Whether it was deflected or bounced or he was screened, it originated with a wrist shot from the side boards ... You thought that was Phillips’ first, multi-goal game? Wrong. It was his fourth ... The recent struggles of rookie Jared Cowen continued in the first period, as he skated himself out of position on the Predators’ goal. Earlier, Cowen was undressed by rookie Craig Smith before the Predator centre rang a shot off the post.

BETWEEN PERIODS

No goalie controversy here. Paul MacLean needs to go back to Craig Anderson for Saturday’s game against Edmonton ... Seeing the ad for a March 21 Van Halen concert at The Bank reminded us of the time the least famous of the rock brothers was a member of the Anaheim Ducks. At least, the P.A. announcer at the time thought so when he called Shaun Van Allen’s name ... Over the last couple of months you may have wondered who was going to score again first, Phillips or Sergei Gonchar, known to some as a power-play specialist. Gonchar’s drought extended to 33 games, but he did come closer to ending it with a hit post in the second period ... Just because a guy complains, doesn’t mean he’s right. Nick Foligno was called for goalie interference and he voiced his displeasure to referee Dean Morton. Fans booed loudly as Foligno settled into the box. “If he was pushed into goalie,” somebody in the pressbox said, “then he was pushed at the blue line.” ... Morton, a former 67, played one NHL game. It was as a Detroit Red Wing, during the 1989-90 season. He scored a goal, proving Tom Coughlin isn’t the only one who knows how to quit while the getting is good.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM

If Phillips suits up for every game on the remainder of his current contract he’ll get to 1,190 — or one short of tying former Buffalo Sabre Gilbert Perreault for most games played by a first overall pick with the team that selected them. Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes is responsible for discovering that Phillips, Perreault, Mike Modano and The Great Denis Potvin are the only first picks to play 1,000 games in the same jersey they were presented on draft day ... Snakebitten on his own chances, Michalek deserves the credit for making Spezza’s second goal happen ... Always a good idea to finish your check kids. Chris Neil did, as usual, in the third period, and David Legwand responded by taking a slashing penalty. It was from the box that he watched Phillips score his second.

THE GAWDAWFUL

An early second period power play for the Senators — 12 seconds of which included a 5-on-3 advantage - might well have been their worst of the season. They were just so out of sync ... Healthy scratches were Brian McGrattan, Matt Carkner, Zenon Konopka, drastically shrinking the chances of a good scrap.


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