Kelly's Heroes strike for Sens

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:28 PM ET

PITTSBURGH — Neither his friends, his family nor even his captain would have picked Chris Kelly in their playoff pools.

“Not if they want to win,” the Senators centre said dryly.

“I know I wouldn’t,” admitted Daniel Alfredsson.

Yet there was Kelly after Day 1 of the post-season tournament, tied with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Derek Morris for the NHL scoring lead.

He had a goal and two assists of the six points contributed by his line — which includes wingers Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil — in Game 1’s 5-4 victory over the Penguins.

For the job they did both offensively and defensively, the unit earned itself a new nickname: Kelly’s Heroes.

The Senators wouldn’t have won without them.

“It was a good game for our line,” said Kelly. “My goal was kind of a lucky bounce, but Neiler and Ruuts, they were both great goals, good shots ... I thought our line played well and generated some chances. It was nice to contribute like we did.”

The Senators had wanted to get Mike Fisher’s line against Crosby, but with last change the Penguins mostly avoided the matchup.

The poison they picked instead was Kelly’s Heroes. Turned out to be a bad call.

Crosby didn’t get his first shot on goal until the third period. He wound up with three assists, but two of them were on the power play.

“We said all along that we’re not going to be able to do it just by one guy or one line, we’re going to have to do it by committee,” coach Cory Clouston said of trying to contain Crosby. “And defensively, that’s a real solid line for us. They check well, they’re responsible, they know what they need to do.”

While Crosby had 51 goals and 109 points this season, Kelly’s Heroes had a combined 37 goals and 80 points. And it was a great offensive season for each of them. Kelly tied his career high in goals, with 15. Ruutu set new personal bests in goals (12) and points (26), while Neil hit double digits in goals (10) for just the third time of his career.

With the loss of 22-goal scorer Milan Michalek to a season-ending knee injury, the Senators really could use them chipping in more often, too.

But Kelly says he and his linemates won’t lose their focus, either. They’re going to hit, agitate and play as responsible defensively as ever.

“We know what we are,” said Kelly. “We go out there and play hard, playing a thinking game, and that’s the way we’re going to play. If we can generate more chances, then great. But we’re going to play our style.”

As for his share hold on a piece of the playoff scoring lead, well, Kelly isn’t getting too excited.

“I’m sure it will be short lived,” he said, chuckling. “But, yeah, it’s nice.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos