Vermette digs down deep

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 5:00 PM ET


 The days of Antoine Vermette's name being included in the list of Senators healthy scratches could be over -- if only for the magnitude of the play he made in the second minute of the second overtime period last night.

 The Senators' lone rookie in the lineup did the muscle work on Mike Fisher's dramatic game winner as Ottawa evened its first- round playoff series with the Maple Leafs at 3-3.

 Behind the Leafs net, Vermette outbattled Aki Berg for a puck, then, stepping out along Ed Belfour's left side, slid a perfect, cross-crease pass for Fisher to tip in.

 The biggest assist of Vermette's life capped a solid all-round performance for the 21-year-old native of St-Agapit, Que., who returned to the Battle of Ontario with a bang after watching the last three games from the sidelines.

 "It's crazy," said Vermette -- who replaced Jason Spezza in the lineup, after the latter had replaced him in Games 3, 4 and 5 -- when asked about the difficulties of sitting out. "It's pretty hard. You get so nervous, and you can't do anything for the team."

 Last night, he did what somebody had to do to keep Ottawa's season from ending.

 Vermette, who wound up seeing 15:36 of ice time, admitted he didn't know Fisher was open when he slid the puck his way.

 "Everything happened so fast," he said. "I just battled and tried to come out with the puck ... I just tried to put it in front and he was right there."

 While he was a central figure in the victory, Vermette said he was just pleased the team extended its season.

 "The win is all that matters," he added. "It doesn't matter who scores. You just want to win."

 And now the Senators can carry on to fight another fight, thanks to the rookie who won a battle along the boards.


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