OTTAWA - For one brief moment, it looked like Ottawa fans were going to become great fans and uncharacteristically let loose with one of those classic standing ovations.
You know, the kind that gathers more steam as the recipient tries to speak into the mike, forcing him to step back. The kind that last and last. In real life and in memory.
But Chris Phillips wouldn’t let them.
“Thank you,” he said, interrupting their applause, cheering and chanting. “Thank you.”
With that, the 14-year Senators veteran began what felt like a rookie shift.
“That was more than enough,” Phillips said when asked why he chose not to bask a little longer in the applause. “It’s one thing to play hockey in front of ... it doesn’t matter how many people, it’s what you do. But when you have to talk in front of them, it’s a whole new ball game. The knees were pretty shaky. I just wanted to get started.”
The pre-game ceremony in honour of Phillips’ 1,000th game, played Thursday night, went smoothly. He received gifts from the team, his teammates, the league. One of them was a fantastic drawing from Ottawa artist Tony Harris, who put the finishing touches on it at 4:30 a.m.
“Erin told me, ‘Don’t back into it, you might get wet,’ ” Phillips said, with Erin, of course, being his beautiful wife.
“To have my family out there and the crowd cheering for you, it’s a special feeling,” he added. “Some people stepped up and did some great things for me, it was a lot of fun.”
As for how game No. 1,001 went, well, it was a lot less fun.
From scoring two goals in a 4-3 win Thursday, Phillips was on for two against in a 4-3 loss Saturday. Judging by his reaction to the first, he blamed himself for not getting to Magnus Paajarvi in time.
Some might place fault on him for skating to the puck carrier, Ales Hemsky, and leaving Shawn Horcoff uncovered to score Edmonton’s third, as well. That one would sting, but not as much as the last goal of the game.
Taylor Hall would skate right over the ‘4’ painted on the ice behind the Senators net in honour of Phillips before backhanding one into the mesh for the overtime winner.
For the Ottawa fans, a day that began with cheering for one No. 4 was disappointingly ended by the other.
STARTS AND STOPS
So much for blaming slow starts. The Senators were up 1-0 on the board and ahead 7-0 on the shot clock before the game was five minutes old. Fact is, they threatened to run away with it, but Nikolai Khabibulin made terrific saves by that point off Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek ... Speaking of saves, Craig Anderson made the first one on Hall in OT, but had to do a better job controlling the rebound that resulted in the winner ... Still wanna see the NHL back in Quebec City, despite how annoying the 2,0000 members of Nordiques Nation were with their random and maniacal outburst at The Bank Saturday afternoon? ... Okay, so they weren’t exactly random eruptions. They went nuts at the four-minute mark of each period, not as a salute to Phillips, but because that meant there was 16 minutes until the buzzer, and it’s been 16 years since the Nordiques played in the league. On their 2010-11 season tour, they went bonkers with 15 minutes left in each period ... In their old Nords jerseys, they matched those in Oilers sweaters. With all that blue and white in the crowd, you would have thought the Leafs were in town.
STUFF I THINK I THUNK
By taking their fathers with them on this week’s trip to Florida, is that the Senators’ way of giving their moms a Valentine’s Day present? ... During one break, three of Phillips’ blue-line partners over the years delivered taped messages to the Big Rig on the videoboard: Zdeno Chara, Anton Volchenkov and Wade Redden. “Very nice to see those guys up there. It was a nice touch,” said Phillips, who laughed when asked about the “A-Train,” Volchenkov. “I think that was the most he ever talked right there. I’ll have to send him a text.” ... Must have been something wrong with the ice at the west end of the rink. Early second period giveaways down there by Erik Karlsson and Filip Kuba were almost as bad as early first-period turnovers in the same area by Tom Gilbert and Horcoff ... Check that, nothing was quite in the same league as the cough-up by Gilbert, who was feeling no forechecking heat whatsoever when he passed the puck in front of his own net, where only Michalek and Spezza hovered.
Still remember the newspaper photo cutline the day after then-Toronto Maple Leaf Rick Vaive scored his 50th of the season. “Me and the Boys and My 50” it said, under a shot of Vaive and some teammates, while stealing the catch phrase of a beer commercial. The “Me and the Boys and My 50” moment Saturday would be a picture of Karlsson being mobbed by Alfredsson, Colin Greening, Kuba and Kyle Turris after scoring his ninth goal. It was also Karlsson’s career-high 50th point... Anderson did save the Senators a point by making a great save off the red-hot Sam Gagner in the last couple of seconds of regulation ... With three assists in two games since his last move from press box to first line, could Bobby Butler finally be there to stay? Too early to say, I guess, but Butler has looked like he belongs.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HMMM...
Alfredsson’s a big fan of CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada. “It’s a great tradition and they do a really good job of going to the grass roots of the game in Canada,” he said. “To me, it seems like they could go to some igloo up north and there would still be the same interest as there is in Vancouver or Toronto. That’s amazing.” ... Formers Senators “great” Bruce Gardiner turned 40 Saturday ... No slight on Ottawa’s Ben Eager, but Anderson can’t let a tough guy beat him through the legs with a wrist shot from the faceoff circle ... In real time it looked for a second like Jared Cowen was victim of a pick play on the Eager goal. Coach Paul MacLean would not comment.