Pen helps write happy ending

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

If a rallying point is to be identified in this Senators' post-season, April 15 would seem to be as good a day as any.

Specifically, the third game of the opening round at the 9:04 mark of the second period in Pittsburgh, when the Penguins' Colby Armstrong decided to try and knock Patrick Eaves into the following week.

The Senators entered that game tied 1-1 in a best-of-seven against a Sidney Crosby-led team that experts believed might breeze through a playoff round or two.

The Senators reacted strongly to the hit, first with veteran Dean McAmmond immediately fighting Maxime Talbot and then in the way they took control of the series.

Not only did they refuse Pittsburgh another win, but the Penguins would score only two more goals in the remaining 150 minutes or so before hitting the golf course for the season.

While Eaves was only days ago declared fit enough to return from the head/neck injury he suffered on the hit, the Senators have performed at an extraordinary level ever since. They are 9-1 in games played after the midway point of April and have outscored teams 35-19 in the process.

It's almost as though watching one of their teammates get knocked unconscious snapped the Senators awake.

"It's not like we were up against the wall or anything at that point," McAmmond said yesterday, "but it definitely caused us to have a little more anger against the opponent. It gave us a little more resolve, not to let them off the hook.

"It's not like we were in an uncontrollable fit of rage, but all of a sudden there was some underlying disdain."

Seeing McAmmond drop the gloves also showed the younger Senators that they had to be prepared to go above and beyond the expectations that followed them through the regular season.

The 33-year-old McAmmond has made it to the Stanley Cup final twice during his 15 NHL seasons. He has also only been in eight or nine fights.

"In the first two games, Talbot was running around like he was king of the world," said McAmmond. "At the end of Game 2, he was chirping our bench and acting tough. So I stood up, grabbed my jersey and said, 'Hey Talbot, it's No. 37. Anytime.' After (Eaves) was hit, we sort of came together and he said, 'Okay, let's go.' I didn't hesitate.

"(Talbot) was taking liberty with a lot of our players ... like he was trying to call us out. When the other team is doing that, you have to confront them any way you can."

The Senators haven't been pushed around much since Eaves was KO'd. In fact, they've been the ones knocking out other teams.


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