Senators could learn from Lefty

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:27 PM ET


 TORONTO -- The Senators have turned to "Lefty" for a little inspiration in their series against the Leafs.

 Until Phil Mickelson was fitted with a green jacket after winning the Masters at Augusta National last Sunday -- his first major victory in 42 attempts -- he was viewed as a golfer who couldn't win the big one.

 Always the bridesmaid and never the bride.

 While one would think golf is the last sport anybody in the hockey world would want to think about in April, the Senators watched a video of Mickelson's heroic march through the Augusta back nine before Game 4 on Wednesday.

 Mickelson had 22 PGA Tour victories to his credit, but he was looking to shake the label of best player to have never won a major. He was known for being a choker when the game was on the line -- which occurred on the front nine when he lost the lead to Ernie Els -- but on the back nine, he proved his critics wrong.

 He was able to elevate his game to the next level, overcoming a three-shot deficit en route to his first major title.

 After Senators coach Jacques Martin laid out the game plan against the Leafs, assistant Perry Pearn introduced the video of Mickelson to try to send home a message of what it takes to be a successful champion.

 MESSAGE FOR SENS

 "When it first came on, and I saw that it was golf, I thought that this was some kind of joke. Then, I realized it was serious and there was a message there for us," said winger Chris Neil yesterday. "We could learn something from Phil Mickelson because of what he's gone through.

 "You looked at him out there on Sunday, trailing on the back nine and what he had to go through. It definitely strikes you. Here's one guy out there battling the odds and he shows that he can get the job done. It makes you realize it should be easier for us if we've got 20 guys working together."

 Throughout this series, the players have been forced to answer questions about their past failures against the Leafs.

 And that will be the case until Ottawa finally gets over the hurdle of beating Toronto in the post-season.

 As the series, tied 2-2, shifts to the Air Canada Centre tonight for Game 5, the Senators can only benefit from what they've learned from Mickelson's accomplishment.

 As he sunk a birdie putt on No. 18 for the win, he was calm, relaxed and focused -- the same way the Senators need to play.

 "A lot of guys have been through a lot here and they know the disappointment," said Senators defenceman Greg de Vries. "I've been through it in Colorado. I lost three (Western) Conference finals in Game 7. That's not easy to take. It's tough.

 "Watching Mickelson (perform on Sunday) was awesome. You know what he's been through. You know how hard he's had to work and he's a great example of what an athlete has to go through and learn to be successful. He looked so focused on winning, but he was calm and relaxed ... having fun."

 REMAINED CALM

 Despite trailing 2-1 in the series going into Game 4, the Senators remained calm.

 They hadn't scored a goal on Leafs netminder Eddie Belfour in 138 minutes and 21 seconds, but still displayed confidence in knowing he could be beaten. And the Senators' patience paid off as the team scored four times on Belfour in a 4-1 win to even the series.

 "I thought from watching Phil Mickelson that there were lessons that could be learned about patience," said Pearn. "You can't try to force the issue and you've got to wait for your opportunity. That's what we're trying to do here.

 "Mickelson showed a lot of patience on Sunday. He wasn't afraid and he really believed he could do it. I really think a belief in yourself is a quality that you need to win a championship. There's no question, we believe we can. When you believe you can win, it's bitterly disappointing when you lose. We weren't just a little disappointed with what happened last year. We were bitterly disappointed."

 Which is another reason why the Senators would rather watch golf than be golfing after this series.


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