Thunder was sixth man in stands

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Standing outside the dressing room moments before the Senators take the ice to start each game, a pumped Chris Neil paces and fidgets and does his part to rev up the Red.

While giving that ritualistic encouragement to his teammates, Neil is experiencing something new these days. It is a sense of amazement over the noise that is coming from down the corridor and through the Scotiabank Place walls. It is a rumble unlike any he has heard before.

It is the Senators' sixth man.

"Every game here it's getting louder," Neil said yesterday morning. "Just when you think they can't get louder, the fans prove you wrong. They've been unbelievable this year. They're like an extra attacker."

The chanting, the buzz, the roar ... it was all muted very early last night when Andrej Meszaros threw an ill-advised pass up the middle that went off Chris Drury's skate and to Derek Roy. The hometown (Rockland) native temporarily took the hometown crowd out of the equation with a record-shattering goal at the nine second mark.

They were able to get back into it quickly enough but the fans really didn't have a lot to cheer about until the Senators finally scored a couple of quick ones late in the second period.

The noise generated by the sixth man grew to even new heights in the third period.

It'll be through the roof in the Stanley Cup finals.

STARS AND STOPS

A Tom Preissing shot in the first period beat Ryan Miller on a night that he was very tough to beat.

Alas, it was another bounce that went in favour of the visitors as it rang off the crossbar ... The finals will mean inflated ticket prices for everybody and it was on that topic that Jason Spezza yesterday morning remembered his first trip back to his hometown of Toronto as a Senator. As it was a playoff game, admission was high, but Spezza grabbed eight ducats at about $300 a pop. When Spezza learned he was a healthy scratch, he sent his brother out to scalp them. He didn't stay long when he found out Toronto scalpers protect their turf with knives ... Yes, Antoine Vermette has had trouble beating Miller this series but he did a good job screening him on Dean McAmmond's goal ... Miller was hot, but yes, you have to be lucky to be good, too. He was screened and had no clue where a Joe Corvo point shot was going until he noticed it nestled in his glove ... Christoph Schubert pasted Daniel Briere and Jaroslav Spacek with tremendous hits ... It's impossible to see the vertically challenged Briere when he stands in the middle of extra-large media scrums. Why doesn't he go down the hall to the press conference room? Too far to walk, we're told, which helps explains why the Sabres don't seem to have the stamina to play a full 60 minutes, either.

BETWEEN PERIODS

In his last year as a player (1992-93), Lindy Ruff suited up for the IHL's San Diego Gulls. The team was owned by Mike Comrie's father Bill and his uncles, John and Fred. "He was a real nice guy," Ruff said yesterday of Bill, who flew in from Anaheim to watch his son play last night. "I'll remember that year as one of the best experiences I had. I was playing at the end of my career and had a chance to win some games. We won 62 .... that's a pretty good retirement present." ... Former 67's defenceman Brian Campbell, an NHL all-star, was unproductive (zero points) in the first three games of the series. And it sounds like he took a blast from his coach Monday for putting himself offside while trying a spinarama that killed an early rush in Game 3. "That kind of sums up a little bit of what is still in our game," Ruff said yesterday morning. "I like the way Brian has played all year, and he's had a pretty solid playoff, but is your mind in the right place if you're trying to spin around on the blue line on your first rush up ice?" Meanwhile, a little earlier Campbell was asked by Briere if Brian Kilrea would be in attendance for Game 4. "I told him no," Campbell said, adding with a grin the absence of Killer was all right with him. "I don't need another person yelling at me."

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM ...:

The way he was pointing to the logo on his chest and waving his arms to get fans on their feet, Ron Tugnutt looked more like a defensive end than a ex-goalie when he was shown on the centre ice scoreboard in the Senators' new 'Welcome Back' feature. Okay, so Tugnutt hasn't grown any bigger in retirement. Maybe he looked more like an undersized defensive back ... A fan sitting on the glass near the Senators' bench held up a signing recognizing NBC as Not Bob Cole ... Corvo celebrated Peter Schaefer's goal that pulled the Senators to within one (3-2) with almost as much enthusiasm as he did his own in OT the other night. Then, leading the high-five lap of the bench, he had to slam on the brakes to keep from running into Maxim Afinogenov. ... In Tampa, an old guy guards the Lightning logo in the middle of the dressing room to make sure no visitors step on it. That job in Ottawa has recently fallen to Erin de Papp, who received a lot of TV time on RDS yesterday. Viewers would have noticed she's very much not an old guy.


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