TAMPA, Fla. -- Hockey is providing a release for Wade Redden at a difficult time for him and his family, and the Ottawa Senators are drawing inspiration from the defenseman's desire to help them advance in the playoffs.
Redden returned to the ice Tuesday night after missing Game 2 of Ottawa's first-round series against Tampa Bay because of the death of his mother and had a goal and two assists in an 8-4 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning.
"The way he came back, it was unbelievable. That's all I can say about him. His focus was right on the game," teammate Chris Neil said. "It was a way for him to get away from it all, even if it's for three hours. The guy is the leader in this dressing room and has been an important player."
The Senators lead the series 2-1.
Redden played in the series opener in Ottawa on Friday night and his mother lost her battle with cancer the following day. The 10th-year pro missed Game 2 to fly to Saskatchewan to be with family and plans to return there for the funeral after Game 4 Thursday night in Tampa.
There's no guarantee the Senators would have won Game 2 had Redden played, however there's no question they're a different team with him in the lineup.
"I obviously wanted to play real well and I was able to come out and do some things, and I was pretty happy about that," Redden said, adding that being back around the team was helping him cope.
"I think sometimes it's a little easier. Your mind is kind of clear; it's been going through a lot of things. But when you just think about hockey and get out here, it's a lot easier just to focus on the game," he said.
Senators coach Bryan Murray felt Redden's return bolstered the team's confidence and restored a mental edge that was absent in Game 2, which Tampa Bay rallied to win 4-3 with two goals in the third period.
Ottawa scored three times in the first period Tuesday night and led 7-2 before the Lightning broke through for two power-play goals in the final nine minutes.
"I think No. 1, everybody in Game 2 felt terrible for the Redden family. I don't know if there was a reluctance to show the emotion or what in that game, but we didn't get into the game the way we should have other than maybe 10 minutes at the start," Murray said.
"I think Wade coming here had a big impact in the mental part of our preparation. Certainly, everybody understood his commitment to come back and help the team. For him to score early and make the plays that he made, he was the star of the game," he said.
Tampa Bay insists it is not discouraged heading into Game 4.
"We're not down. We're still loose," center Brad Richards said. "We look at it as an opportunity to even the series."
Lightning coach John Tortorella felt scoring three times in the third period against Senators goalie Ray Emery was something his team could build on.
"I think that's their weak spot -- the third period," Tortorella said. "That's the positive we take out of that."
A win Thursday night could give Ottawa a stranglehold on the series, but the Senators don't want to get ahead of themselves.
"The only thing I know is when we drop the puck, it's a fresh start for everybody," Murray said. "We'll have new referees, we'll have nice clean uniforms that we have to go out and try and get dirty again by playing hard."