Senators 4, Lightning 1
Dominik Who? Not only did Ray Emery wear a spectacular suit to his first NHL playoff game last night and perform sensationally in it -- stopping 35 shots during a (predictable, right John Tortorella?) 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning -- but he also picked up his first GWA of the season.
That would be Game Winning Assist, of course.
Emery, who calmly charged straight out of his crease a couple of times early to retrieve loose pucks and start attacks, did so again in the third. His pass to Dany Heatley was later relayed to Jason Spezza, who made a sweet deke on Daryl Sydor and took his only shot on goal of the game. Conveniently, it snuck past John Grahame's glove and the inside of the post, through a hole that might have been only about three pucks big.
The goal gave Ottawa a lead it would never come close to relinquishing -- and gave Emery his first playoff point.
Anybody take him in your pool?
"Y'never know," Spezza said. "He is on a point-a-game pace."
That may fall off, though. Emery only had one assist in 39 games during the regular season and has only 14 in 311 games this century.
Then, he does get paid to stop the puck, right? His best save last night came off former Senator Vinny Prospal on a 2-on-1 in the second period. Tampa was ahead 1-0 at the time, and another goal then might have been a killer.
On this play, Bolts winger Ruslan Fedotenko was the helper. Emery kicked out Prospal's shot and then, with the net wide open, watched as Prospal's try seemed to deflect off Fedotenko's stick and over the net.
Meanwhile, Emery had no chance on Tampa's lone goal -- which came on a 5-on-3 power play and after Dan Boyle's great pass to Vincent Lecavalier.
"Experience doesn't mean very much, the way he played," coach Bryan Murray said, subtly taking a dig at all those who said the Senators would be at a disadvantage using a raw Ray. "He was outstanding.
"I thought he was really solid, poised and obviously athletic."
Emery said later it was the biggest game of his life.
"I'm glad the first one is out of the way," he admitted. "I was nervous, but I kinda like that feeling. More often than not, it makes you play a bit better."
As for the assist, he said: "I just fired it up there, and finally Spezz shot one. It was exciting."
Starts and Stops:
You would have felt chills listening to Vaclav Varada talk after the morning skate about the rush a player gets just sitting in the dressing room as the crowd whips into a frenzy in the moments before the Senators take the ice to start a playoff game. Yet in those precious moments last night, the music selection was enough to have folks considering a trip to the bathroom or a popcorn run. In fact, the whole pre-game show leaned toward lame (even Sparty's annual playoff plunge from the roof is getting stale) until the introduction of the starting players wearing their "game faces" on the videoboard ... Quietly turning in a very strong game was Wade Redden, who had a team-high five shots on goal, a team-high four hits and a team third-high three blocked shots ... In his first game back after missing 11 with a knee injury, Chris Phillips jumped in front of every puck he could. Known as a playoff guy, Phillips had a game-high eight blocked shots.
No, he wasn't between the pipes, but Dominik Hasek was at least between goalies in the second period. Nine years to the day after he yanked himself out of a playoff game between his Buffalo Sabres and the Senators at the Corel Centre, Hasek stood just behind Ottawa backup Mike Morrison and in front of Dr. Don Chow (another guy who occasionally dons hockey's tools of ignorance). He was wearing a ball cap and sweat suit and taking pulls off a tall can, which we'd guess was Red Bull (because we've seen it in the dressing room, not because we think Hasek was celebrating the spirit of the evening). Anyway, there's a reason you don't generally see injured players standing behind the bench when they're not playing, and that's because they don't belong there. Neither did Hasek ... The Senators had a total of just four shots during their first three power plays ... The closest Ottawa came to scoring in the first was a second-minute opportunity for Peter Schaefer that the winger just couldn't lift high enough and a quick, sharp-angle shot by Varada that went through Grahame's legs but then just wide.
Things That Make You Go Hmmm:
Through 40 minutes, a couple of the biggest cheers were for the out-of-town scoreboard (do we now hate Steve Yzerman's Red Wings or suddenly love the Oilers?) and a pair of apparently well-known figure skaters in attendance who would have fit right in playing for the home team ... The innocence of a rookie, eh? On his way home after the morning skate, Chris Kelly walked by the Tampa dressing room wearing a bag of ice on a particularly battered body part. When it was suggested that he might want to keep that bit of info away from the enemy, Kelly scoffed and continued forward.
Ottawa's best line before the third period was the fourth line, with Antoine Vermette between Varada and Chris Neil. Not only did it outplay Tampa's fourth line, but it also owned the Brad Richards-Martin St. Louis-Fred Modin unit for a shift ... Vermette was an incredible 15-4 on faceoffs. Spezza was 10-5 ... Between them, Lecavalier and Richards were 10-29 in the circles ... Should be noted that Bryan Smolinski drew two Tampa penalties, including the holding call on Modin that was being served when Havlat broke Grahame's shutout.