Sens' defining moment

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 3:44 PM ET


 TORONTO -- The result of Game 7 tonight vs. the Leafs could shape the Senators' psyche for years to come.

 While there were no questions about Ottawa's character yesterday after the Senators forced a Game 7 vs. the Leafs with a 2-1 double-OT victory on Sunday, there will be if the club doesn't win this series.

 Coming off a horrible performance in a 2-0 loss in Game 5 on Friday, the Senators were being accused of being "chokers," but they got off the mat with a double-OT victory that ended on Mike Fisher's winner in Game 6 on Sunday.

 The Senators have given themselves a glorious opportunity to finally bury the Leafs.

 "We know what it's going to take to win," Senators defenceman Chris Phillips said yesterday. "We put as much pressure on ourselves as everybody puts on us. We want to be successful. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. We know that we haven't accomplished anything yet."

 The Senators can go a long way in erasing a lot of doubt from those who don't think they have the mental capability to beat the Leafs in a seven-game series if Ottawa can put Toronto away for this spring.

 MANY MORE SHOTS

 While the Senators have been the better team by outshooting the Leafs 201-128 in six games, Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour has been a big difference and Ottawa players have made mistakes that have turned out to be costly.

 The numbers don't make any difference. If the Senators can win tonight, they keep the path toward the Stanley Cup in June alive and gain the confidence of a community that has been nervous about their prospects against Toronto.

 "The whole team feels that what we've done is given ourselves a big opportunity here," said Phillips. "We've got a chance to win this game and then move on to the next round. We're not satisfied just because we forced a seventh game.

 "We've got big expectations. We put ourselves in a situation where we had two games that were must-win. Well, we've won one of them. Our job isn't complete. We've still got a must-win game (tonight) to stay alive."

 If the Leafs win this series, people will talk about them being resilient and the fact they have players in their dressing room like Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ron Francis, Brian Leetch and Belfour who have been through this before.

 The Senators have faced difficult lessons along the way in their playoff careers. No, they don't have a bunch of players who have had a ton of Game 7 experience, but captain Daniel Alfredsson insists that's not important.

 "I don't think you're a better team just because you have 20 guys who have played in a Game 7," said Alfredsson. "We've got people who have experience in this room and we've been able to learn from what's happened in the past.

 "We've got confidence going into this situation. We feel good about the opportunity we've given ourselves. If we play the way we're capable of playing, then we feel very strong about our chances of winning this game."

 Senators GM John Muckler gave the players a speech on Saturday following their dismal Game 5 result. He told them they were the better team in this series and they shouldn't blow that opportunity.

 LISTENED TO MUCKLER

 The message seemed to get through on Sunday. The players took Muckler's words to heart. He has enough Stanley Cup rings that when he talks, the players realize they should listen, and he forced the Senators to do some soul-searching.

 Now that the Senators have done it once, they've got to do it again. They've struggled with consistency all year, but the playoffs should be different and it's time to put back-to-back wins together.

 No, the Senators won't win a Cup if they eliminate the Leafs tonight, but they can go a long way in restoring the faith the community has in this team.


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