Neil delivers for newborn

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

Hailey Jean Neil will be hearing the story for the rest of her life.

Less than 24 hours after Hailey Jean said hello to the world on a steamy, muggy June night, her father Chris gave her a gift.

Senators winger Chris Neil scored a goal in the Stanley Cup final last night, giving his team, its fans -- a city -- a jolt when they all needed it most.

Neil's goal broke a 101-minute, 34-second shutout string by Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, just when he was starting to look invincible.

Neil's goal helped propel the Senators to a 5-3 win last night and back into the Stanley Cup final.

"You get banged up in the playoffs, but before the game I felt like there was nothing wrong," said Neil, who got the puck he used to score his goal and will save it for Hailey. "It felt like it was my first game of the playoffs. I felt like a million bucks. The whole thing is just an amazing feeling."

After the Senators' morning skate yesterday, their dressing room had just about emptied out. Neil had been one of the most-interviewed players a few minutes earlier, his grey T-shirt turned dark with sweat and his gap-toothed smile relentlessly bright as he told the microphones, cameras and notepads of Hailey's birth.

FAMILY LEGEND

There were only a couple of people left in the room now, Neil sitting in his stall having fallen behind in his morning routine after all the media attention.

He sat in his stall, lacing his skates as he always does, doing it for the first time as a father.

"Hey," said a visitor on the way out of the room, "you going to score one for the kid tonight?"

Neil looked up, the big smile still on his face.

"Yeah," he said.

Okay, so it might not be up there with Mark Messier's "We're going to win tonight," but Neil's guarantee of a goal for Hailey will live on in legend, if only in the Neil household.

Neil was cutting back and forth through the slot as the minutes drained away in the first period last night, in the midst of another good shift by the Senators, something they had not been able to string together in either of the first two games in California.

Senators forward Chris Kelly, who was off to a strong start in the game, shovelled a pass to Neil, who was to the right of Giguere.

Neil's shot climbed up over Giguere's right shoulder and found the net, the first time in nearly two games the Senators had scored.

"He used some of that baby energy," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "He was a menace all night, hitting guys and getting under their skin."

Neil's goal was the first of three times the Senators came back from one-goal deficits on a wild night where just about everything from the goaltending to the officiating took wild turns.

Both teams had reason to take issue with the officiating last night.

In what is surely the most controversial call of the playoffs, NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Colin Campbell overruled referee Dan O'Halloran when the official waved off a power-play goal by Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

A shot by Senators defenceman Wade Redden deflected high in the air on the way to the net and came down where Alfredsson was jostling with Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf.

There's no question the puck went in off Alfredsson's foot and O'Halloran enthusiastically waved off the goal from behind the net.

FOREARM SHIVER

But after video review, Campbell ruled it was a goal at 16:14 of the second period to tie the game 3-3.

"The rule says there has to be a distinct kicking motion. Was there a distinct kicking motion? The answer was no," said NHL vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy, who emerged from the video replay booth to explain the call.

It was a spotty night for the on-ice officials, who missed a forearm shiver by Ducks defenceman Chris Pronger on Ottawa forward Dean McAmmond in the early moments of the third period.

After McAmmond had fired the puck, Pronger drove his elbow into the side of McAmmond's head and McAmmond crumpled to the ice.

McAmmond had to be helped off the ice by linemates Oleg Saprykin and Christoph Schubert and did not return.

Pronger has already been suspended once for a head shot in these playoffs. His blatant elbow to McAmmond's head is worthy of review, too.

Neil, meanwhile, was in the middle of it all again after that as the game took an edgy turn. After handling the puck in front of the Ducks bench, he was hit from behind by Getzlaf and then Ducks forward Corey Perry jumped on his back.

"That was the Chris Neil that we know tonight," said Redden. "We were all real excited for him. He's an emotional guy, an intense guy and he was definitely a key for us."

Neil has been banged up in these playoffs, but when the Senators need his physical presence most, he put his imprint on the game last night. And several Ducks.

Scoring a goal for his new daughter is a good story today.

Depending on how things go from here, it could get a lot better.


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