Murray shows faith in Big Three

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- Bryan Murray admits that it crossed his mind.

At one point in the second period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, the Senators coach gave serious consideration to breaking up his top line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.

He thought about it ...

"But it would have been a panic move," he said yesterday.

The big line couldn't get traction in Game 1, generating little at even strength against the Anaheim checking line led by centre Samuel Pahlsson and the surprising tandem of superstar defencemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.

In the final act of ignominy, the big line was victimized for the winning goal by Travis Moen.

But the line will get another chance tonight, another opportunity to be what it has been in these playoffs, the best line in the NHL at the time of year when it matters most.

Murray said he owes them that, they have been so good, meant so much to this team, that they have earned the right to stay together and get an another opportunity to be difference makers.

"I've got to allow them at least some time to have that challenge," said Murray. "Our guys have to find a way to get some points against that particular line."

Against the defensive might of the Ducks, the big line had just five shots and each of them was minus-1.

There have been only two games in this post-season in which one of the three failed to get a goal and the Senators lost both (the other was Buffalo's win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final).

To get back to form, they are going to have to make some serious alterations, starting with turnovers. Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson had five of Ottawa's 14 turnovers on the night.

Spezza had three of them and looked like October Jason, not post-Christmas Jason.

When asked about how Spezza has progressed over the last two years yesterday, Murray replied: "Well, he used to play like he did (Monday) night," drawing a laugh from the throng.

"I'm not sure why it happened the way it did, whether it was the first game in the finals, whether it was being off that long time ... his game will have to improve a great deal to get back to where it was in the earlier series and I'm sure it will."

BIG WRINKLE

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle threw a big wrinkle at the Senators, teaming superstar defencemen Pronger and Niedermayer in even-strength situations against the big line.

They backed up Pahlsson, the Selke Trophy nominee, Moen and Rob Niedermayer.

The teaming of Scott Niedermayer and Pronger was an intriguing move by the Ducks coach. Carlyle knows the effect that seeing those two together on the ice has on the Ducks and their opponents.

"Their top line has been so dominant throughout the playoffs that we had talked about it," said Carlyle. "We mulled it over and we made the decision that it might be something that we would explore. (In Game 1), it happened more than we talked about, but we're happy with the result."

The Ducks' Big Two might have to concentrate more on defence in that situation, but that's a tradeoff Carlyle is willing to make.

"It's more important to have that intimidation factor," he said. "Well, maybe not intimidation, but the 'Wow!' factor.''

"That's the beauty of having two world-class defencemen on our team," said Ducks forward Todd Marchant. "Having one on the ice is great. Having two on the ice is even better."

NO TIME TO PANIC

Heatley looked around the Senators' dressing room yesterday as he faced wave after wave of questions about the line's struggles in Game 1 and whether it will stay together.

"There's a lot of opinions in here," he said, eyeing the reporters. "We don't want to hit the panic button. I think we (as a line) want that matchup. They won Game 1. We feel we didn't play our best game. We want to stick with it, play our top game and see what happens.

"At the end of the day, it's (Murray's) decision. We've played too well together in the playoffs. I'd hate to see us split up right now."

Murray will give them another shot tonight, but the leash -- and the time -- is drawing short.


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