Broken blade, broken dreams

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

He doesn't know how it happened. But it is a hard way to wind up in a 3-1 hole in the Stanley Cup final.

The broken skate blade of defenceman Chris Phillips isn't the reason the Senators lost 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks last night and now find themselves looking into the dark hole that is a must-win situation in California tomorrow night.

But the broke blade didn't help.

Phillips broke it some time early in the third period, he's not sure how, broke it in half. He left the ice and got a new pair of backup skates, but halfway through his first shift in the new skates, he knew something was wrong.

''One of the skates had a pretty weak edge,'' he said.

He needed to get off the ice. With the puck in the Ducks' end of the ice, he headed for the bench. The puck was moved quickly up ice as Phillips, about halfway through his shift, unexpectedly returned to the Ottawa bench.

Senators defenceman Wade Redden went over the boards to replace Phillips just as the puck was arriving in the neutral zone.

''Wade had to change when the rush was taking place and he got caught flat-footed at the bench,'' said Senators coach Bryan Murray. ''They took advantage of it.''

Redden never really had a chance to recover as Ducks forward Teemu Selanne hit the Ottawa line. He shifted past Redden, cut down the right-wing side and then found Ducks winger Dustin Penner in the slot, all alone. He tapped it into an empty net for what turned out to be the winner.

Phillips' broken blade isn't an excuse. It's just something that happened.

The Senators had a few chances after that to tie it, but didn't. Now they must win tomorrow or see the Stanley Cup raised in victory in California for the first time.

'A LOT OF CHARACTER'

''We're all disappointed now, but our heads will be up tomorrow,'' said Phillips. ''We've showed a lot of character this year. We're going to be leaving it all out there (tomorrow) night and see what happens.

''We're very disappointed we had a chance to tie the series and we didn't do it.''

Now the Senators face the mean truth of the situation.

Of the 28 teams that have led 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final, 27 of them have won the Cup.

The only team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the final was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who came back from 3-0.

The Senators find themselves in this hole because of little Ducks forward Andy McDonald, who had a goal and two assists last night.

With their biggest player out of the lineup, suspended star defenceman Chris Pronger, McDonald rose to the occasion, helping reverse the momentum of a game the Senators had dominated through the opening period.

In Game 3, Senators winger Chris Neil almost knocked McDonald's head off.

Last night, the little centre cut the Senators off at the knees.

McDonald's eighth and ninth goals of the playoffs a minute apart in the second period allowed the Ducks to take a 2-1 lead.

The Ducks have been a big, punishing team in these playoffs, but last night it was McDonald's speed that was a big factor.

He was the guy who pushed the puck up the ice to Selanne as Phillips was heading to the bench and Redden was jumping onto the ice.

Thanks to McDonald's output and defenceman Francois Beauchemin picking up most of the slack in Pronger's absence, it was a case of ''no Pronger, no problem.''

It was the second time the Ducks had played without Pronger -- he was suspended in the Western final for Game 4 for his hit on Detroit Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom -- and won.

''We've had to play without (Pronger) before,'' said McDonald, who missed the second half of the 2002-03 season and the Stanley Cup playoffs that year because of a concussion.

''He's a huge part of our team and he does so many great things out there on the ice. We're going to need everybody to pick it up,'' he said prior to last night's game.

The Scotiabank Place crowd, sensing the desperation of the moment, exorted the Senators on with 92 seconds left in the game, Emery on the bench for an extra attacker and a faceoff in the Anaheim zone.

But time ran out without a real chance and the Senators left the ice, many of their fans, backs turned as they headed up the aisles, facing the grim realization this might have been their last chance to see them this long and remarkable spring.


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