Senators win first elimination game in team history

OTTAWA (AP) -- Rookie Jason Spezza produced when Ottawa needed

him most, allowing the Senators to stay alive in the playoffs.

Jason Spezza has not enjoyed a breakout season.
Jason Spezza has not enjoyed a breakout season.
AP Photo/Ryan Remiorz

Spezza, making his NHL postseason debut, had a goal and assisted

on Martin Havlat's game-winner, lifting the Senators to a 3-1

victory over the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the Eastern

Conference finals on Monday night.

Todd White also scored for the Senators, who cut the Devils'

lead to 3-2. The best-of-seven series shifts back to New Jersey for

Game 6 on Wednesday.

The win not only ended Ottawa's three-game losing streak, but

also reversed the team's troubling past of going 0-6 when facing


"This is big for us,'' said Spezza, inserted into the lineup to

bolster the team's struggling offense. "We're only getting started

now, and we've got a long way to go. But obviously it feels good to

help contribute.''

Scott Stevens scored for the Devils, who appeared to have the

series momentum coming off Saturday's 5-2 victory. New Jersey,

attempting to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the third time in

four years, has never lost a series it led 3-1.

No worries, the Devils players said, noting that they're 8-0 at

home this postseason.

"A lot of us have been through this before,'' defenseman Scott

Niedermayer said. "No one thought that the Senators were just

going to sit there and die. That's not their club.

"We can't get too low. We'll just regroup.''

The series winner will face the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, who are

resting after completing a sweep of the Minnesota Wild in the

Western Conference finals.

Spezza's addition, replacing tough-guy Chris Neil, did plenty

for a Senators lineup that lacked spark and poise around the net.

Ottawa managed just three goals in its previous three games.

And Spezza immediately showed his offensive capabilities, the

key reason the Senators selected him second overall in the 2001


After the teams traded second-period goals, Spezza almost scored

the go-ahead goal late in the second when he out-jumped Devils

goaltender Martin Brodeur for the puck. When he brought the puck

down, Spezza faced an open net, but failed to get a shot off as he

was pushed down from behind by New Jersey's Colin White.

"I'm sure he was nervous, but he didn't look nervous. He looked

very poised,'' Senators forward Bryan Smolinski said. "I'm sure

all of Canada's talking about him right now. And he deserves every

bit of it.''

Havlat put the Senators up for good on a broken play with 12:01

remaining. Peter Schaefer sparked it when he stripped the puck from

New Jersey's Sergei Brylin behind the Devils net.

Schaefer failed on his wraparound attempt, but the rebound

rolled to Havlat, standing at the right post. Brodeur prevented

Havlat from jamming the puck in, and then blindly kicked the puck


The puck, however, hit the skate of New Jersey defenseman

Richard Smehlik and rolled back into the net.

Spezza sealed the victory with 7:32 remaining, redirecting Chris

Phillips' point shot for a power-play goal. It was Ottawa's first

man-advantage goal of the series, ending an 0-for-20 streak.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was impressed by Spezza's


"He came in and played awesome,'' Alfredsson said. "It is a

very tough situation to come in and he handled it well. ... We've

had trouble scoring goals and Jason, great offensive player.''

Don't ask Devils coach Pat Burns to rate Spezza's performance.

"How many shifts did he have?'' Burns asked. "I didn't notice

him that much. I'm not a scout. I am coaching. I have to prepare my

lines. ... I imagine he's going to be a great player. Good for him.

Good for Ottawa.''

Forward Joe Nieuwendyk said the Devils have to respond like the

Senators did.

"We're going to have to play with the same desperation they

played with,'' Nieuwendyk said. "We have to treat it like Game 7.

We can't have the breakdowns that we had tonight or we're going to

be in big trouble again.''

White, set up by Magnus Arvedson, opened the scoring with a

short-handed goal four minutes into the second period. Stevens tied

it 2:20 later off a faceoff. His shot from the left point appeared

to deflect in off the skate of Phillips in front.

Game notes

Spezza had seven goals and 21 points in 33 games this

season. ... Senators RW Marian Hossa returned for the start of the

second period after missing the final 10 minutes of the first with

what the team described as a lower body injury. Hossa limped off

the ice after being hit by Stevens. ... Devils RW Turner Stevenson

(groin) missed his third straight game. ... The Senators improved

to 6-0 in the playoffs when they score first.