Hossa seizes the moment

CHRIS STEVENSON, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:33 AM ET


TORONTO --  It's the moment for which you wait in a Stanley Cup game, that crucial point when a game hangs there for the taking and someone grabs it.

So it was in the opening minutes of the third period when Ottawa Senators winger Marian Hossa, a kid of whom so much is expected, took flight and wrapped his arms around the first game of the Eastern Conference quarter-final against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It is the image of Game 1: Hossa, airborne, body parallel to the ice, sweeping the puck behind Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour to give the Senators their final goal in what would turn out to be a 4-2 win.

It was 140 feet of suspense.

With the Senators nursing a one-goal lead and play along the Ottawa blue line, Senators winger Vaclav Varada caused a turnover, springing Hossa loose.

He churned up the ice, head down, pushing the puck ahead of him, Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle in hot pursuit. Hossa pulled away from Kaberle and Belfour charged out of the net.

They met near the hash marks, a spectacular intersection of what could be the two dominant personalities in this series.

"I looked down and I just saw him sliding towards me when he was right in front of me," said Hossa. "I thought, 'uh-oh.' My focus was on the puck and trying to get away from the defenceman. I had my head down. I didn't even know he was coming out.

"It was a great play (by Belfour). He just missed the puck and I was able to put it in."

Said Belfour: "I missed the puck. He kept his balance and made a nice play."

Hossa's goal was like an axe smashing into the roof of the Air Canada Centre, releasing the last energy of the expectant crowd.

Hossa was the Senators' central figure last night with his first goal turning out to be the winner, coming just 38 seconds after Ottawa defenceman Wade Redden had tied the game 2-2 on a 5-on-3 advantage.

With the Senators already on the power play, the ACC crowd went nuts when Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe was called for slashing.

McCabe brought his stick down on Hossa's stick, snapping Hossa's twig in half.

At a meeting yesterday morning with NHL officials, the clubs were warned that play will result in a penalty this spring.

"We can't help it if the sticks are made of mesh," said NHL director of officiating Andy Van Hellemond. "We can't have players start using that as a ploy, laying down hard on the stick and breaking it. (The other player) can't play the game. That's what we told them (yesterday) morning. All the teams get the same meeting, we cover the same points."

McCabe's penalty came just nine seconds into an obstruction hooking penalty on Toronto's Mikael Renberg, who had slowed down Ottawa's Peter Bondra at the Toronto blue line. Seventeen seconds later, Redden beat Belfour with a one-timer low to the stick side.

Then Hossa scored his first, dancing out of the corner and banging his own rebound behind Belfour at 10:40 of the second.

It was a strong statement by the Senators, who proved they can put pucks behind Belfour, who had given up but four goals in four regular-season games against the Senators.

So the Senators have already assured themselves of a split here in Hogtown with Game 2 set for tomorrow night.

"That was a huge win for us. It was a huge team effort for us from the goalie to the last forward," said Hossa. "But we know the next game is going to be even tougher. It's still nothing. We won one game and we know this is going to be a long series.

"I'm sure they are going to be better in the next game. We have to play better, too. We just have to build on this win and keep getting better."


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