Son also rises for Senators

EARL MCRAE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

Two hours before the game, and the creators of Matt Carkner -- dad Dennis, mom Kathy -- and family friend Andy Hamel pull out of Winchester in Dennis' Dodge Daytona pickup truck, all in their Matt Carkner Senators jerseys, and filled up with the last thing to die in the human soul: Hope.

Summoning a higher deity is fine, too, but in Scotiabank Place, a potential impending funeral home for the Ottawa Senators -- few teams have ever come back when down 3-1 in games -- there is no prayer chapel.

Sports has a way of the improbable happening, of the rightly unheralded becoming the heralded righteous, the lifeline to another opening, another show. Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali. Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson. Matt Carkner, at 28, busted out of the minors and made the NHL.

Dennis and Kathy Carkner are no different from parents anywhere in believing their son might, just might -- as improbable as many would say it'd be -- score the winning goal this night to tie the series at two victories each.

After Dennis Carkner leaves his D's Collision Centre at 5 p.m. to pick up his wife and friend for the drive to Ottawa and what they hope isn't the last home game of the season for the Senators, they are not aware of the sports website Who Wins and its thorough, accurate, charting of sports playoff improbabilities, including the NHL.

Had they been aware, they would have seen that NHL teams in playoff quarter-finals that are up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win the series 63% of the time. Not all that daunting. They would also be aware that NHL teams trailing 3-1 have come back to win the series only 8.7% of the time.

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Matt Carkner, in the Senators dressing room, after the morning skate: "Obviously, tonight's a game that's really important for us to win."

"Does your dad still give you advice on how to play like he did when you were a kid?"

"Nah," he says, grinning. "Now he just taps me and says 'Go get 'em.' "

Dennis Carkner laughs at that. "Far be it from me to tell Matthew what to do in hockey. He's doing well."

In wave after wave, the Red Sea sweeps across the wide, grey planes and up to the shore of Scotiabank Place. But will it be the Promised Land? Will Moses be wearing No. 11, will he lead again? The disciples are noisy, they are confident. Red and white paint beautifies many of their faces. "Tickets, tickets, who needs tickets?" shouts an infidel from Toronto, scalper Eric Pakulski, who has 100 of them. Wallets are opening all around him. "Thank you, sir, enjoy the game."

"Go Sens Go," is a non-ending cacophony. Good-natured jeers pelt fans wearing Penguin jerseys. Matt Carkner's name is wel-represented on Senators jerseys.

"I love Matt," brays Linda Deschene of Peterborough. "He's blue collar and not spoiled yet. Woo-HOO. Go Matt go."

Bill Elliott is in the tidal wave. Brian Elliott's dad. Brian, he says, has always had the right psyche. Cool. Nerveless. "When he played at the University of Wisconsin, his nickname was Triple B."

"Triple B?"

"Back Bone Of The Badgers."

"Did he always play goal as a kid?"

"No, he didn't start until he was 11. He played forward. One day he said 'Dad, I don't want to play any more.' I thought he meant hockey. He meant playing out. He said he wanted to play goal from now on because a goalie never has to come off."

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The game. Ottawans are renowned sheeple, but it says something unsettling when their emotions for the home team need to be goosed by technology. "NOISE" words on the Jumbotron order them, and they obediently make noise. "ALL LOUD" and they're obediently all loud. TOWEL WAVE, and they obediently towel wave. "SCREAM IF YOU'RE A SENS FAN," and they obediently scream.

If the letter E in SCREAM suddenly burned out, they'd obediently go home.

It must be tempting, and in this Sens punch, Pens double-, triple-counter punch jollity, Ottawa's penalties for "too many men on the ice" didn't help. Too many men on the ice? For the Senators there were never enough men on the ice.

Dennis Carkner makes his way down through the stands. Improbability didn't grace his son with a winning goal. But Matt Carkner was solid within his talent boundaries.

"I don't know now, I don't know," says his father, despondently. "It's pretty bleak for us. I thought Matthew played well. It was his getting physical that started his teammates getting physical. It just wasn't enough. But you never know. Maybe they can come back."

He doesn't sound at all confident on a night in the Promised Land when Moses wore No. 87.


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