Expect something more

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:37 PM ET

 The Ottawa Senators came to Toronto on Friday night holding all the high cards and somehow bluffed themselves out of the game.

 How many times do you get this kind of a chance to put the boots to your demons? Mats Sundin, the Maple Leafs' best player, was in civvies with what is believed to be an ankle injury; Joe Nieuwendyk's chronic bad back was, and is, one hit away from sending him to the sidelines; Alex Mogilny is clearly not himself as he struggles to get healthy after hip surgery; and Darcy Tucker's battered face has only now started to lose the bruising that made him look like he should have been playing lead guitar for KISS.

  The Senators, healthy and presumably hungry, should have been salivating. Instead, they were hyperventilating. They played tight, they played coy. They played a timid waiting game against a Leafs team that had dotted-lines on their necks, inscribed with the words "Cut here."

 It was a most curious strategy by an Ottawa team that obviously had the upper hand. It is one thing to be beaten, it is quite another to let the other team beat you. The Senators managed to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.

 Now they are forced into a tight spot. They must win. Twice. Or face all the same old issues that have haunted them the past half-dozen years since they became Toronto's designated playthings.

 There is a line of demarcation along the crest of the Rocky Mountains through North America. Water on one side of the line flows to the Pacific. On the other side, it ends up, eventually, in the Atlantic.

 At what point do the talented Senators reach their Continental Divide? At what point will they be able to look back and realize that they stopped being a team of destiny and became yesterday's news? Can they absorb yet another defeat at the hands of the Leafs and maintain the status-quo?

 Game 5 may just have been that watershed moment. Of course they still have tonight. And if they're able to win this one and then waltz into Toronto for Game 7 and win that one, good on them. Game 5 will be a meaningless footnote.

 They are an immensely talented outfit, a team ready to win a Stanley Cup. But right now, it is hard to get over just how small the Senators came up for one of the biggest games in their history.

 "Obviously we like where we are," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said yesterday. "It's an opportunity for us, going in there in a building where we've played decently. But getting the fourth one is often the hardest one."

 Faced with the prospect of his best player unable to play, Quinn's Leafs played a textbook road game at home on Friday. It's not the kind of tactic you could ever get away with during the regular season when people expect a little entertainment for their $200 hose-job. Even at this point when winning is its own reward, Quinn is aware his team isn't built for this kind of boring hockey.

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 "You can have a club that concentrates so much on defence that they do need breaks in the end," he said. "That's the kind of game we played (Friday). But if you have some skill on your team, it's not the way you want to play all the time because I don't know if you can win a championship playing for the break all the time."

 Are you listening, Jacques Martin?

 "Our plan is to play our best game (tonight)," Quinn said of Game 6. "We can be better and we're going to need to be better. We've been in this spot before, with the lead coming home a few years ago against New Jersey. And we played an awful good game at home and made one little mistake and lost the next two rather than win one of the next two."

 Which is to say, don't expect the Leafs to play the same kind of tactical game tonight they played on Friday, even if Sundin can't answer the bell. Game 7 at home is not a comfort zone for anybody.

 "So, we have to be very careful but at the same time we need to try to do something more," Quinn said.

 That's exactly what Ottawa needed to do on Friday. Something more. Yes, of course, sometimes less is more. Not this time. Less was just more of what we've come to expect when Ottawa plays Toronto in the spring.


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