Leclaire basking in the glow of win

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:53 PM ET

Pascal Leclaire was a saviour Thursday night at Mellon Arena.

He will have to walk on water — albeit the frozen kind — again if the Senators are going to stay alive in their first- round playoff series against the Penguins.

Making his first career playoff start, Leclaire, 27, rewrote the Senators’ record book by facing 59 shots and making 56 saves to help the club stave off elimination with Game 6 of the series set for Saturday at Scotiabank Place.

Not bad for a guy who had lost his starting job to Brian Elliott in mid-January and had only won one of his starts in 2010. But after Elliott turned in a disappointing effort in Game 4’s 7-4 loss, the Senators were in need of a hero.

Leclaire played the role perfectly.

“It’s definitely the most exciting hockey game I’ve been part of,” Leclaire said Friday in Ottawa. “It’s just the overall fun, especially winning it on the road. You’ve always got that mentality that (it’s) you against the world.

“You try to work hard in practice. You take it day-by-day. I’m not going to change anything now. Our situation hasn’t really changed that much. We’ve still got to win to stay alive and that’s our main focus right now.”

If you think about what Leclaire accomplished against the Penguins, it’s remarkable.

There were no expectations going into Game 5 because Leclaire had played only 338 minutes in the last two months of the regular season.

“I thought it was a spectacular performance,” said former NHL goalie Glenn Healy, working the series as an analyst for CBC. “He made the big saves at the right times. This is a guy who didn’t play a lot of games down the stretch.

“The one thing I have noticed is his work habits in practice have been excellent. He was keeping himself ready, he was working hard and he wasn’t sulking. He was staying after practice and it was like he was waiting for the opportunity.

“From a team standpoint, that’s exceptional. His teammates understand he wants to win and that performance shows them what he’s all about.”

The Senators were happy to see Leclaire succeed.

“He played phenomenal. It’s a credit to how hard he’s worked in practice,” said centre Jason Spezza. “Even though he hasn’t been playing, he hasn’t given up. He has really pushed it in practice, being out there extra.

“He has kept himself in shape and he’s been in a tough situation. He really rose to the occasion and gave us life as a team. When you see a guy battling like that, you really want to help him out.”

Leclaire, who gave a lot of credit to the players in front of him blocking shots, said he enjoyed the pressure.

“You don’t play hockey to play exhibition games. You want to be part of those nights. It was fun,” said Leclaire. “Family and friends were all up until 1 a.m. They’re all complaining because they’re tired, but it’s fun.

“We have to try to do the same thing (Saturday in Game 6). We have to play the same type of game. If we don’t try to do too much and stay within our game plan, we’ll have a shot at it. I know everyone is excited, but we can’t get caught up.”


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