Canada's team looking wobbly

Senators forward Chris Neil tries to get the puck past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist during...

Senators forward Chris Neil tries to get the puck past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist during Game 6 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., April 23, 2012. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:22 AM ET

OTTAWA - O Canada, the Senators are left alone to stand on guard for thee.

And suddenly, it’s on a single, wobbly skate.

On their first full day still kicking as the only team based north of the 49th, the Senators blew a chance to advance to Round 2.

Holding the Rangers by the throat, they didn’t squeeze hard enough. They booted away a 1-0 lead, they pointed fingers, they suffered a meltdown.

And coach Paul MacLean was not at all happy with some of his stars.

When captain Daniel Alfredsson loses composure, there’s reason to worry.

Even though they’re 4-1 at MSG this season, the Senators have to once again be considered the underdog as the series with the Rangers turns into a best-of-one Thursday in New York.

At least they should have a country cheering them on.

The Senators were supposed to be the worst Canadian team. But now, with the early dismissal of the Canucks, they’re the only one left.

“I guess it’s bittersweet,” Newfoundland’s Colin Greening said early in the day. “Growing up as a Canadian, you like to see the success of other Canadian teams. It’s too bad Vancouver went out. I think they deserved to go past the first round. But that’s hockey.

“It’s unfortunate we’re the last Canadian team, but we’re happy to represent Canada.”

Toronto’s Jason Spezza pointed out that being the lone team remaining from this country was not the Senators’ goal.

“You just want to win your series and be the last team standing,” said Spezza. “Obviously, there’s going to be some talk about it and we’ll get a little bit of attention for it, and maybe we’ll get a few more people cheering for us along the way. Maybe some of the kids change their allegiances and cheer for us.

“It’s a good opportunity to win some fans over, especially in a city that at times has been torn between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Runs at this time of year can convert fans, for sure.”

But of course, they won’t be able to go on one unless they are able to walk out of New York first.

And right now, they’re looking a little wobbly.

STARTS AND STOPS

He scored the overtime-winning goal in Game 2.

He knocked the Rangers’ best player out of the series with a clean, hard hit in Game 5.

And he gave Senators fans a lot more to cheer about in Game 6.

Chris Neil rejected Brandon Prust’s invite to fight early in the first period, probably because he didn’t want to risk the Senators losing any momentum given to them by the frenzied fans at Scotiabank Place.

A few minutes later, he deflected in Sergei Gonchar’s point shot on the power play to give the Senators a 1-0 lead.

A few minutes after that, he caught up with Prust and gave the scrappy Ranger what he wanted — and then some.

As the two traded punches and the crowd chanted Neil’s name, the Senators’ all-time penalty-minute king smiled and waved for the faithful to keep it up. They obeyed, and then let another roar as he gave his trademark “get on your feet” gesture as he skated off the ice.

There were those who said that ignited the Rangers, that it was unwise for Neil to mock the Eastern Conference’s top team.

I think it was entertaining, and so did the 20,000-plus in the place.

ICE CHIPS

In this playoff season of poor officiating, circle the names Tim Peel and Steve Kozari. Videoboard replays clearly showed Nick Foligno was pushed into Henrik Lundqvist by Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi, but it was the Senators winger who was sent off for goalie interference. Suddenly with a 5-on-3 advantage, the Rangers scored the goal that broke a 1-1 tie ... Come to think of it, maybe the officials were just making up for three Senators infractions they overlooked — or worse yet did not see — in the first period ... The Senators took good advantage of a Craig Anderson quote during a first-period timeout.On the videoboard was his words about how he enjoys the cheering and towel waving done by the patrons, that it “makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.” Naturally, that set them off, cheering and waving.

STUFF I THINK I THUNK

Pretty soon linesmen should just start throwing the puck in the Senators’ end corner when Zenon Konopka takes a defensive zone faceoff. It’s only going to wind up there anyway ... I don’t expect Brad Richards to get an invite to play for Canada at the world championship. I don’t think he’s good enough to make the team ... Foligno and Gonchar were given the assists, but Zack Smith and Neil built a pretty nice screen fence in front of Lundqvist on Ottawa’s first goal ... Felt like I was at a Mexican market while visiting the Rangers dressing room after the morning skate. Reporters kept saying to each other “no Hagelin today” ... Richards musta heard me type that shot at him. He just made a pass that helped put the Rangers on the board — and completely ruin the “Alfie” chant with 11 minutes left in the second ... Okay, Richards can play on Team Canada next month.

BETWEEN PERIODS

Jakob Silfverberg arrived in Ottawa at 4 p.m. Sunday and had what he said was a restful eight hours sleep the night before playing his first NHL game. Still, there are plenty of distractions for the 21-year-old Swedish MVP, described as a similar player to Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom, but with a better shot. Representatives from two Swedish TV stations have followed Silfverberg to Canada for his NHL debut. One of their reporters drew a laugh from the crowd of about 100 media for Paul MacLean’s availability when he quickly leaned on the Senators coach. “We’re in a bit of a hurry due to the time difference. Can we start with one question?” he asked. Replied MacLean: “You have the floor.” “Will you let Silfverberg play tonight?” “We’re considering it, yes,” said MacLean. “But at this point we have to decide between Silfverberg and Alfredsson. We’re in a bit of a quandary right now.” “Are you serious?,” asked the reporter. “Silfverberg or Alfredsson? “Or both. We could play both, too.” As expected, Silfverberg played, and on the team’s first line with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. He showed a couple of flashes of his brilliance, and very nearly scored on his initial shift.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM ...

It pays to be proactive. To buy a pair for Game 6 in Section 118 through Stub Hub at 3 p.m. Monday would have cost you $442.75. Buying the same two at face value was $259.10 ... How did Jakob Silfverberg wind up with Jason York’s old jersey No. 33? “He gave me a Rolex,” said York ... Asked how he felt about Silfverberg breaking his playoff goal-scoring record back in Sweden this month, Daniel Alfredsson gave his countryman the thumbs up. “Good for him,” said Alfredsson. “It’s not easy to do. He had an unbelievable series. I’ve been watching the highlights. It’s been really impressive. The shot he’s had, consistency he’s had through all three rounds. Good for him. On making the jump from the Swedish league to the NHL playoffs: “It’s an adjustment, there’s no question,” Alfredsson said.


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