ANAHEIM -- Jason Spezza's magic touch defied him at the worst possible time.
In the biggest playoff series of them all. In the most crucial game. In the delicate moments.
"Obviously, I wish I could have done more and been a better player than I was," Spezza said after Ottawa's 6-2 dream-ending loss to the Anaheim at the Honda Center last night. "I just couldn't get it going in the finals."
The Senators centre, who was in a head-to-head battle with Dany Heatley for the playoff scoring lead after three rounds, had just two assists in the final.
He should have had two goals in the first period last night.
Nearing the midway mark of the period and with his team trailing 1-0, Spezza was set up with an open net by Antoine Vermette. As he shot, the puck hit the stick shaft of falling defenceman Francois Beauchemin and went wide. At the next whistle, Spezza appeared to have a smile of disbelief on his face as he skated to the bench.
He had another open net staring him in the face, another glorious chance to tie the score about five minutes later. This time, the pass from Chris Neil was too hard for him to handle.
"That's just how it seemed to go for me in the finals," Spezza said, shaking his head over the missed opportunities. "I knew if I didn't play better, it would be tough for us to win. I was fighting it a bit and to get a chance like (the one stopped by Beauchemin) and have it not go in was definitely deflating."
Spezza had seven goals and 15 assists in the first 22 games of the playoffs, but his luck soured against the Ducks.
Spezza entered the night with only one goal in his last eight games and -- as one of the few players in the league plus the only Senator still using a wood stick -- was obviously gripping it too tight as Ottawa's Stanley Cup hopes turned to sawdust.
"Hands down, it's the hardest loss I've ever had," said Spezza.
STARTS AND STOPS: Once again, the Senators didn't get the goaltending they needed in a game they faced elimination. There were too many holes in Ray Emery the first period. Both of Anaheim's goals went through him. Both he should have had ... The two defencemen who made life easier on Emery for so many months were not his friends in the second period. First, Chris Phillips' reincarnation of a Steve Smith moment that made the Edmonton Oilers defenceman infamous, then a shot off Anton Volchenkov that again put a damper on Ottawa's comeback bid .... The Senators didn't get their first shot on goal until Patrick Eaves offered up a 53-foot snapper to J.S. Giguere at 4:31 of the opening period. Before the intermission they tested him just twice more -- with a 55-foot slapper by Andrej Meszaros and a 14-foot snap by Mike Fisher. No, the start was not a good one for the Senators at either end of the ice. By the midway mark they had four shots, and the end of the second period they had eight. The Ducks, meanwhile, were up to 12 shots by the end of 40 minutes. It's led them to success, of course, but the trapping, boring style played by Anaheim will do nothing to draw more Californians into a love affair with hockey.
BETWEEN PERIODS: Not only do the Ducks copy Ottawa by using a guy in a uniform (U.S. Staff Sgt. Juan Contreras) to sing the national anthem, but then Contreras holds the mike up for the crowd to take over for him near the end of the song? Creativity is a lost art, isn't it? ... Emery should have been more aware of the puck on the goal that Phillips will never forget .... Antoine Vermette racked Chris Pronger into the end boards early on, and the big boy felt it. As fast as Vermette moves, he should run defencemen more often ... Nepean Raiders coach Archie Mulligan was at Scotiabank Place before Game 4 to visit with two of his former players: Sean O'Donnell and Kent Huskins.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: Makes me laugh that Daniel Alfredsson took a lot of heat and was even called "classless" by American TV broadcasters for shooting the puck at Scott Niedermayer with time running out in the second period of Game 4. The only thing he did wrong was fire it too low. In the Stanley Cup final, you should be doing everything you can to win. With two seconds left on the clock and standing at your blue line, you're not going to score. Attempting to take out the opponent's best defenceman is the next best thing. Believe it's called competitiveness ... At least it has allowed Alfredsson to add to his collection. Now he has three buildings in which he gets booed. Unlike Toronto and Buffalo, the people of Anaheim are throwing in an "Alfie Sucks" chant for good measure ... Makes me laugh that people would suggest, both before the game and after two periods, that Bryan Murray replace Emery with Martin Gerber. Even before the two-month layoff he's been on, Gerber gave no indication he could rise to the challenge of a big game.
LINE CHANGES: The Senators were refused the morning skate they wanted by Randy Carlyle. The Ducks coach wouldn't let the Senators go on before his team's 9:30 a.m. (PST) time slot (Murray said he would have had his players out at 7 a.m.) and, with a 5 p.m. start, Murray didn't feel there would be enough rest time if they went out after the Ducks. Carlyle didn't mind that the officials went out before his team to play shinny, however. "I thought the NHL would give that allowance to us, but that wasn't the case," Murray said of the early request. "So yes, we wanted to practise (yesterday) morning. We would even go out with the officials and play shinny and they wouldn't let us do that." ... Alfredsson nearly lifted the Senators back to even ground by himself in the second period. His shot over Giguere (they should have been firing high on the guy all along) was a beauty, and his work to outhustle and outmuscle the much younger and bigger Ryan Getzlaf for the short-handed goal was impressive indeed ... Okay it's over now. Somebody better fess up. What have they done with the real Dany Heatley? Were you hurt at all? "No," said Heatley.