Don't blame Gerber for woes

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- No one knew for sure how the ever-fluctuating Martin Gerber would react to his first playoff start as a Senator.

As some feared, he had a wobbly beginning, surrendering a goal on the initial shot he faced. His play wasn't very confidence-inspiring as the night progressed, either. There was the flip shot he misjudged with his not-so-trusty trapper, though he remained lucky enough to have it slither on the safe side of the post. There was the slap shot by Petr Sykora that hit him on the shoulder, with the puck popping up and over him but staying out when Gerber fell backward and deflected it away with the above-mentioned catching mitt. There were some other close calls as well, but the Senators stayed fortunate enough to be trailing by just two through the midway point of the game.

Alas, Gerber's luck turned bad when, on another Pittsburgh power play, Anton Volchenkov took an Evgeni Malkin slap shot in the face. With the NHL's best shot-blocker down and out, Gerber was immediately left staring face-to-face at Marian Hossa. The former Senators sniper unleashed a shot headed for the top corner, but Gerber shot out his glove, the one that used to look like it had holes, and made a spectacular stop.

From that moment, he looked like a new man. Gerber appeared calmer, cooler. He made more glove saves (seriously) and he also pulled off a couple of nice stops with his blocker and pads, too.

Volchenkov, who left a decent puddle of blood near the blue paint of his goalie's crease, did not return for the night. He had what coach Bryan Murray later termed a "severe pressure cut," but no broken bones. Asked how he was feeling as he left the building, the tough Russian smiled and said "okay." Don't expect him to miss Game 2.

Meanwhile, the Senators goaltending did not cost them Game 1, as many suspected might be the case. Their problems were at the other end of the ice.

No, after losing his best on-ice buddy, Gerber stepped up his game and showed that he just may be capable of handling this assignment after all.

STARTS AND STOPS

"Gaaaaar-eeeee Rawww-berrrts." Senators and their followers are haunted by the above chants in the post-season, and it's no wonder. When former 67's star Gary Roberts opened the scoring just 68 seconds into last night's game and late in the third period, it marked the 13th and 14th times (to go along with nine assists) he has scored on Ottawa in 24 career playoff games. Some of them have even been bigger than this one, too. A month from his 42nd birthday, Roberts could retire and just make a living as a hired gun for whatever team the Senators happen to face in the first round each year ... The Carolina Connection was largely responsible for the Senators falling behind 2-0. An Ottawa odd-man rush quickly went the other way when Cory Stillman shot wide of the net and Mike Commodore made an extremely bad pinch. That left Malkin feeding Sykora on the ensuing 2-on-1 for the goal ... Andrej Meszaros and Brian Lee against Georges Laraque and Roberts -- now there's a men vs. boys matchup that kept the puck in the Ottawa zone for a ridiculously long time during a second-period shift ... But then, Laracque and Roberts vs. Wade Redden and Volchenkov didn't work out so well for the Senators early on either, did it? ... Martin Lapointe had to be asking Marc-Andre Fleury "Ou est la poubelle?" while sniffing for a garbage goal when a third francophone, Maxime Talbot, rushed in to viciously wrestle the Senators veteran to the ice. Now that, Ottawa fan, is the way to come to a teammates' aid. Didn't matter, either, that the Senators, who were already on the power play at the time, wound up with a 5-on-3 for 57 seconds when the dust settled. Everyone knows the troubles the Senators have converting with a two-man advantage. They blew this one, too, but Stillman came close when he hit the post on the 5-on-4.

BETWEEN PERIODS

Seem to have created quite a media uproar with my win-at-all-costs way of thinking and suggestions that the Senators test Sidney Crosby's previously injured ankle by giving it a good whack, eh. We'll spare you details and instead focus on those we are all actually here to cover. Like 6-foot-3, 245-lb. Penguins enforcer Laraque, whom last week we heard Wild tough guy Derek Boogaard refer to as "freakishly strong." Big Georges, who was quoted as calling yours truly "stupid," had this gem yesterday when asked about Senators targeting Crosby's tender joint. "I thought Slapshot was a movie, not reality." And who didn't like that classic?

IT MAKES YOU GO HMMM

And what about the Pittsburgh scribbler who accused me of being "desperate for a column" when I wrote the Crosby stuff? What does that make him, writing about me? Oh wait, what does that say about me telling you about him writing about me? ..... Remember Dean McAmmond dropping the mitts with Talbot in last year's playoff? Asked McAmmond early yesterday if we could expect his angry alter-ego, Hank, to be going after Talbot again this spring. "Hank will be busy trying to make plays and score goals," said McAmmond. "Soon as we get some players back, he'll return to the fighting list." ... By (the way) Georges, stupid? Call me that to my face.

LAST CHANGES

If you're going to buy one of those limited viewing seats right behind a bench, you should at least show you're bright enough to rhyme. That had to be the thinking of the fan sitting just over Bryan Murray's shoulder as he/she (it's sometimes hard to tell the difference here) held up the sign "Cryin' Bryan." That's clever, or whatever.


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