Nasty Lady Luck

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:37 PM ET

ANAHEIM -- This spring had started out on a road paved with such promise for Chris Phillips.

A new baby, a new contract and a burnished reputation as one of the league's best shutdown defencemen.

Finally, a trip to the Stanley Cup final.

How could it end in such a miserable way?

Phillips' story is the Senators' story in the final, which ended last night with Anaheim Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer lifting the Stanley Cup at centre ice of the Honda Center.

LIMITED STRETCHES

Phillips and the Senators played some outstanding hockey over the past two months, but apart from a few limited stretches, like the first period of Game 4, they never consistently played the hockey they did in the first three rounds.

Part of it was the Ducks, of course.

A lot of it was the Senators.

They'll have some time to think about what they went through over the past 57 days. The victories over the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres were all well-deserved.

The Senators played some precision hockey in those series, disciplined defensively, inspired offensively.

It came apart against the Ducks.

Anaheim forced them into a few mistakes here and there with their size and patient willingness to let the game come to them, but the lingering feeling after seeing Niedermayer lift the Cup last night is the Senators gave the Ducks too much.

That is not taking anything away from the Ducks. It is just a thought on what the difference was between the Senators team that rode so high for three rounds and the team that could not get it going against the Ducks.

Senators coach Bryan Murray was musing about it yesterday morning.

"I think that's the thing that we try to impress upon our players more than anything, is play the way you're supposed to play, play your position and if they beat you, it will be because of a good play rather than plays that we've allowed them to make," he said.

Against the Penguins, Devils and Sabres, that's what the Senators did to opponents.

"When they made a mistake in positioning, whatever, we were able to capitalize and that's what Anaheim has done to us," said Murray.

There's a lot the Senators organization can be satisfied about this spring.

The first trip to the final rehabilitated the Senators' reputation as playoff chokers.

But there is a hollowness that comes with the realization they didn't play their best in the final. Like the coach said, much of the damage against the Ducks was self-inflicted.

Too many odd-man rushes in the series and last night, too many penalties. Giving the other team a 5-on-3 in the first four minutes of an elimination game is just stupid, even if the second call was chintzy.

Of course the Ducks would score.

A shot by Ducks forward Andy McDonald ticked off the inside of Phillips' skate and went through the legs of Senators goaltender Ray Emery.

They made it 2-0 when Phillips, who had to be the unluckiest man in the final, lost the puck at the Anaheim blue line and Ducks forward Rob Niedermayer raced away and scored.

In the second period, in the most striking example of Lady Luck elbowing Phillips in the head, he put the puck in his own net as Anaheim's Travis Moen tapped Phillips' stick as he circled the net and the puck trickled in off Emery's foot.

It came just after Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, doing everything he could to give his team a chance, had made it 2-1 with his first of two goals in the game.

MISFORTUNE

Those events continued the swirl of misfortune in which Phillips had been caught.

He broke his skate blade early in the third period of Game 4 and an edge on his backup pair of skates was weak, forcing him to get off the ice early in his shift with the game tied.

The change resulted in confusion at the Ottawa blue line and the winning goal by Anaheim's Dustin Penner.

Senators defenceman Wade Redden had jumped on the ice in Phillips' place.

"We got flat-footed on the winning goal the other night on a change that was a bad change. There was a reason for it," said Murray, alluding to Phillips' skate problem. "It was a bad change. But when a team takes advantage of it, you have to give them a fair amount of credit for that, as well."

Phillips will bounce back from this, of course.

He is a pillar of this team for what he gives on and off the ice.

He cares, deeply.

And this ending will hurt, no doubt, for a while.


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