Redden recalls Game 7 loss

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

The breakout. The breakdowns. The shot. The red light. The silence. The painful, painful disappointment of it all.

Wade Redden thought all the details had finally escaped his memory. Until he was asked to talk about them yesterday.

"I guess it is still pretty clear in my mind," he said, surprised at the realization.

The Senators have never been as close to the Stanley Cup as they were May 23, 2003. They had bounced back from a 3-1 deficit in the Eastern Conference final to force a seventh and deciding game at the Corel Centre against New Jersey. With regulation time winding down and the score 2-2, the Devils took the puck at their own blue line and suddenly found themselves on a dangerous rush.

ONLY ONE REMAINING

For whatever reason, Senators winger Martin Havlat stopped backchecking. For whatever reason, Senators defenceman Karel Rachunek left Jeff Friesen. Suddenly, Redden was alone. Grant Marshall's pass/shot went off Rachunek's stick to Friesen, who beat Patrick Lalime. New Jersey hung on to the lead, then defeated Anaheim in seven games to win the Cup.

Rachunek, Havlat, Lalime, Friesen and Marshall have moved on. Of those with the closest view, only Redden remains to talk about that defining moment in team history as the Senators again try to make it past the Devils in a playoff showdown.

"We were three minutes away," he said.

Redden wasn't blameless, but replays and highly trained witnesses will also tell you he wasn't deserving of the most guilt on that play. Yet even though he is still left holding the bag, he will not point fingers.

"We win as a team and we lose as a team," said Redden.

Those are more than just nice sounding words for Redden. It's a theme he believes in.

Last spring, after a promising Senators season ended in a heartbreaking loss to Buffalo, Redden spoke of changes that needed to be made on this team. Eligible for unrestricted free agency, he wanted his voice heard by management if he was to stay in Ottawa.

"Just team play, all of the things that were stressed throughout the year," he said when asked about the issues that concerned him. "Everyone has been working for each other. All that matters is winning. We don't rely on two or three guys as much. We've got everyone going."

While Redden and Zdeno Chara logged much of the ice time on defence in the past, this season it has been split more evenly. In fact, there was at least one overtime game a couple of weeks ago when each of the six blue liners played more than 20 minutes. Rarely if ever does that happen, on any team.

"It's good for us, to have six guys into the game," said Redden. "Last year, Carolina rolled six all playoffs. We've got four lines, too. You need everyone going. It's huge for us."

As the team's highest-paid employee, Redden's play has been criticized by the legions more than ever this season. His numbers were down. His impact was down. And now, his left point spot on the first power-play unit has fallen to Joe Corvo.

GROIN INJURY

But Redden, who is at his best when moving his feet, has likely never fully recovered from the groin injury that haunted him in October. He is back on the first power-play unit at the right point, however, and indications are his role will be prominent against the Devils.

"It's different for each series," said Redden. "Against Pittsburgh, Chris (Phillips) and Anton (Volchenkov) did a huge job on their top line. This series it's going to be big for defenceman to skate with the puck. They lay back, play the trap. I've got to be skating, getting up on the play, getting involved."

And clicking with that trademark first pass of his.

Key for all will also be to minimize the defensive zone mistakes against the Devils. Redden remembers all too well how they can capitalize.


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