Alfie pays back honour

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

They've known each other for 11 hockey seasons now but this spring their relationship has reached new heights.

The Ottawa hockey fan and Daniel Alfredsson. It has become a full-blown love affair.

The chant -- that was last heard this loud was when he skated to the penalty box after a tussle with a Penguin in the first game of Round 1 -- started at about 4:25 of the opening period last night.

"Alfie! Alfie! Alfie!" the Scotiabank Place crowd bellowed.

At 4:34, he answered them, taking a Dany Heatley feed and whipping a shot just under the crossbar and past Martin Brodeur's glove.

Senators 1, Devils 0.

"We have to get off to a good, quick start," Alfredsson had said following the morning skate. "Hopefully we can get the first goal and quicker (than in Game 3). That's the key against New Jersey."

The chant kicked in again, with the captain killing a penalty a little later in the first period. This time he immediately responded by lifting the puck from Patrik Elias and sending it down the ice.

"This is the most energized I've seen Alfie play in the two years I've been here," said Bryan Murray.

At 34, Alfredsson's not only the Senators oldest player, he's also their busiest. Heading into last night's game he led all Ottawa players in average ice time at 22:56.

"Everybody likes the responsibility," Alfredsson said of the regular duties he combines with power play and penalty killing work. "You want to be out there as much as possible. That's why you play, that's why you prepare yourself all year. You eat right, you ride the bike ... you want to be ready for this situation."

He was asked about the snub Senators received when the list of trophy nominees came out Tuesday and none of them were on it. Alfredsson shrugged.

"There are a lot of good players," he said. "Who (on Ottawa) should be there?"

The season he's had, Alfredsson deserved at least some consideration for the Hart Trophy as regular season MVP.

He'd gladly settle for the Conn Smythe as most valuable player in the playoffs. It'd be enough to make Ottawa fans who are loving him more than ever stand up and shout, too.

STARTS AND STOPS

It can be hard to stay focused on an exciting playoff game, even when you are tipped off that your very favourite Cuthbert (sorry, Chris) is in the building, harder still when you spot the bea-u-tee-ful Elisha Cuthbert sitting in Section 117, on the glass, at the blue line, beside the Senators penalty box. Don't worry, Sean Avery. That big guy your girlfriend was sharing fries with was probably a cousin or something ... This just in: The game tape from Round 1 and Vinny Lecavalier's sharp-angled goal on Martin Brodeur. About time one of the Senators tried that ... At yesterday's morning skate, Jason Spezza was the "Juice Boy" loser. That means he was last man standing in the penalty shot competition. "Only it wasn't regular Juice Boy," Spezza pointed out. "It was score-on-a-net-turned-sideways. When they start turning the net sideways in games, I'll start working on that part of my game." ... Losing doesn't bother Spezza too much, eh? "Wasn't regular Juice Boy," he was mumbling while serving up Gatorade to the boys. "Wasn't regular Juice Boy."

BETWEEN PERIODS

On the Devils' list of scoring leaders, Brodeur moved ahead of Jay Pandolfo, Jim Dowd, Richard Matvichuk, Colin White and David Clarkson when he picked up an assist on Brian Gionta's goal for his first point of the playoffs ... Clearly determined not to be outdone by his opposite number, Ray Emery quickly followed with an assist on Mike Fisher's goal ... He disputes there's a resemblance but with the playoff beard it's easy to see why teammates have given Tom Preissing the nickname Chuck Norris. "Okay, so maybe I've made a couple of cameos (in movies)," Pressing said yesterday, finally giving in. "Tomorrow, I'm showing up with a free Bowflex for everybody." ... Patrick Eaves celebrated his 23rd birthday Tuesday in wild and crazy fashion. "I had some cake at the rink, went to Spa Nordic, then out to dinner with the guys," said Eaves, who skated with the team yesterday for the first time since suffering a head/neck injury April 15 ... He started the season successfully exchanging his Binghamton Senators sweater for one from Ottawa with the same logo. An Atlanta Thrashers and Philadelphia Flyers jersey later, Denis Hamel was back where it all began last night. At Scotiabank Place, wearing a sweatshirt and ballcap, and not as a winger but in the position of Joe fan ... Chris Neil thrilled the already pumped crowd with a nifty third period rush that ended with him backhanding a shot just wide.

HMMMMM THINGS

Seriously, they need to bring back the playoff tradition of Spartacat jumping from the rafters .... No truth to the rumour Hamel changed into a gladiator suit with sword and shield as the game went on ... Lots of truth to the rumour a local sports "columnist," very rarely seen in a press box, showed up last night wearing ear plugs. Just in case anybody started booing Gomez, maybe? .... At the risk of sounding like a stalker, Elisha was jumping around and shaking that red pom pom pretty good to celebrate Heatley's goal.

WORKING DOWN LOW

Okay, so they aren't and won't be playing in this series. But wouldn't you like to at least see Brian McGrattan and Cam Janssen square off during an intermission? ... Fans were pretty upset when Oleg Saprykin was given a penalty for tripping Matvichuk and sending him head first into the boards ... Moments before Gionta's goal, Antoine Vermette nearly scored shorthanded but Brodeur saved his backhander.


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