Phillips razor-sharp in playoffs ... again

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 3:21 PM ET


 TORONTO -- Long after the dust has settled, they will be remembered as the distinctive faces in the latest Battle of Ontario.

 The stitched-up and puffy mug of Todd White. The racoon-like peepers on Darcy Tucker. The dishevelled Eddie Belfour, looking more like a sportswriter than one of the game's best goalies until he puts his mask on. Marian Hossa staring skyward, in either jubilation or disbelief, depending on the day.

 And standing out in a crowd, taking the place of "My Name is" Joe "And I Am" Canadian: The one and only Chandler Bing.

 Ottawa-born TV/movie star Matthew Perry not only attended Games 3 and 4 at the Corel Centre, but is also expected to be at the Air Canada Centre tonight and at the rest of this first-round series, at least.

 Following Wednesday's win, Perry even dropped by the Senators dressing room to meet and chat with a number of the players. Move over, Spartacat. There's a new mascot in town.

 "It was pretty cool," said defenceman Chris Phillips, whose wife Erin shares mutual friends with the co-star of Friends. "I was star struck, I'd say."

 STARRING ROLE

 Phillips himself is again beginning to take on a starring role for the Senators in the playoffs. Paired with Zdeno Chara, he was usually on the ice against the Leafs' top line of Mats Sundin, Gary Roberts and Tucker when Ottawa had last change at home.

 And quite the solid job, they did.

 Phillips and Chara led all players with a plus-3 rating. Physically prominent, Phillips took three minors that, while they were fouls, caused no harm, as the Senators killed them off. He also scored his first goal of these playoffs eight minutes into the third period, the last shot to beat either netminder.

 While it was padding for a lead that wasn't being seriously challenged at that point, the goal had plenty of significance in that it put a halt to three games' worth of power-play misery for the Senators.

 To end the team's 0-for-18 slump with the man-advantage, Phillips wired a wrist shot past Belfour from the top of the faceoff circle.

 Chara was not credited with an assist, but the fact he was parked in front of the Leafs goalie made the goal possible.

 While callers to Toronto talk radio yesterday were in a snit that Tie Domi saw a whopping 4:52 of power-play time in Game 4, almost as confusing was the fact the above-mentioned goal marked the only time (of seven opportunities on the night) Jacques Martin used the man-mountain Chara as a forward with the extra skater.

 NO-BRAINER

 It seems a no-brainer, doesn't it? If you have the world's largest hockey player, why wouldn't you plop him in Belfour's sightlines when you know play is going to be in Toronto's end for most of two minutes?

 "A big part of the power play is retrieving pucks, too," explained Martin. "Sometimes Zee brings certain dimensions ... it's something that's effective sometimes, but I don't think it's effective on a regular basis."

 Not like Phillips in games played beyond the first week in April. Regularly, he gets better at this time of year.

 Even before his dramatic overtime goal in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final last spring, Phillips was known for his ability to rise his level of play in the post-season tournament.

 The reputation of being at your best when it's most important to be is a feather anyone would want to wear in their cap, no matter their line of work.

 "No question, when your career is over and people talk about it, if that's one thing they say, obviously it's something to be proud of," said Phillips. "It's something you accomplished."

 So what's there to love about this gut-wrenching, one-mistake-can-kill-a-career time of the season for a player, anyway?

 "It's more intense, there's more accountability for everybody," said Phillips. "You go around the room and you can see everybody has raised their level of play. That's what it's all about."

 Ba-da-boom-ba-da Bing.


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