Sens need to play to the buzzer

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As good as Ray Emery was through portions of last night's game, he also had his low lights.

He should have stopped the Devils' first goal, a wrister by Brian Gionta from the right-wing faceoff circle that snuck between his right arm and body.

And he should have had New Jersey's second goal, by Sergei Brylin.

Not that he owned that one by himself.

With both Peter Schaefer and Mike Fisher in the box and Ottawa at a 3-on-5 disadvantage, Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips and Anton Volchekov did a terrific job on the penalty kill. But they need a rest once in a while, too.

Alfredsson, who had won a faceoff in Ottawa territory moments earlier, was replaced by Antoine Vermette as the lone forward. With 8.7 second left, Vermette lost a draw at the left of Emery, and the goalie had to come up with a decent save off the point shot.

Vermette, who smashed his stick into the glass out of frustration, was replaced by Jason Spezza.

He failed to win cleanly or smother the faceoff with 2.7 seconds remaining, and Brylin was allowed free for a shot while falling down.

It was a good shot, but it was also over Emery's glove.

Out a little more to cut down the angle, and he likely would have caught it.

Staying focused to the buzzers will be imperative if the Senators are to go on an extended playoff run.

Last night provided them with another lesson of that.

A SLIPPERY BUSINESS

Nice ice shouldn't be too much to ask for an NHL playoff tilt, should it? Even if there's both a basketball game and then a figure skating show held in the building in the 24 hours leading up to the opening faceoff? Well, not from Dan Craig, it wasn't. "Just a normal little conversion," the NHL's ice guru said prior to the player's pre-game warmup. Craig was at Continental Airlines Arena very early (4:15 a.m.) yesterday to oversee the operation. The quick transformation of court into rink happens all the time, but it was the scheduling of a Champions on Ice production yesterday afternoon that presented a new twist. The show was originally slated to start at 3 p.m. but had to be bumped up to noon so as there would be time to turn the softer ice figures skaters need into the harder surface required by the NHLers. The cleanup from the ice show was completed by 4:20 p.m., giving Craig and his crew ample time to make conditions acceptable for the Senators and Devils. An exact science? Pretty much. Craig said the ice is set at -2.5C for figure skates then cooled to -6C for the hockey game. Craig said if players have complaints, they're able to voice them after the warmup. "I stand right were they go on and off the ice. They know who I am and what I do. If they want to make a comment, they do." Craig apparently didn't hear any beefs before the game, confirming his belief that the ice was actually better last night than it was in Game 1. "It's running pretty hard right now," he said.

STARTS AND STOPS

The Devils REALLY didn't want to be lugging an 0-2 series deficit with them to Canada today. Only 37-of-277 teams who lose the first two games of a series come back to win it, and apparently Scotiabank Place isn't exactly the friendliest of confines to out of towners. Lip service or not, that's what was coming from the Devils heading into this one. "Ottawa is a tough building to play in. The fans, the arena ... it's tough to win there and it's kind of a nightmare to think about going there down 2-0," said Devils forward Scott Gomez ... Wonder what the superstitious Martin Brodeur was thinking when while going for a skate and trying to pass a puck in the pre-game warmup, his big goalie stick snapped in half like a twig? Wouldn't exactly be a good omen, would it? ... Word is Brodeur traded in both the glove that betrayed him Thursday and even the blocker for a different set in Game 2. The Senators were reluctant to let him break them in, recording but five shots on goal in the first.

BETWEEN PERIODS

Under the category of "That's A Little More Like It," actual attendance had to be at least 4,000 more last night than it was for Game 1. Of course, there looked to be a pretty fair contingent from Ottawa, too, including 24-year-old buddies Karim Abdelhalim and Lado Filipovic. "It was so easy," Abdelhalim said when asked how he scored the tickets. "I called Ticketmaster (Friday night) and got lower bowl seats for $100 each. They'd be $300 in Ottawa."

HMMMMMMM...

It truly is amazing Chris Neil doesn't start any pre-game fights, the way he "loosens up" while he straddles the centre-ice red line that serves as a boundary for the two teams in the warmup ... The way he started yesterday's matinee, you have to wonder if some of Dominik Hasek's teammates were just wishing he'd quit on them like he did the Senators ... Quite sure the NFL draft is exciting to some, but lining up like they were outside Radio City Music Hall more than 12 hours before it begins to get one of the free admission seats? Not even if Suzy Kolber is handing out free kisses ... After scoring the first goal of the series on a neat deflection, Spezza tipped one right on to Brodeur's forehead in the second period, clearly ringing Marty's bell.

QUICK HITS

The fans at CAA have too much sense to boo the Canadian anthem, although one leather lung near us did scream "Emery sucks!" halfway through The Star Spangled Banner ... Oleg Saprykin had a good second-period shift spent mostly with Spezza and Dany Heatley.... It took Devils captain Patrik Elias just 103 seconds to get his first point of the series.


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