Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Senators stave off elimination 3-1

Spezza sparks win over New Jersey

The Associated Press

OTTAWA - Rookie Jason Spezza produced when Ottawa needed him most, allowing the Senators to stay alive in the playoffs.

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 Monday night.

Todd White also scored for the Senators, who cut the Devils' lead to 3-2. The best-of-7 series shifts back to New Jersey for Game 6 at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The win not only ended Ottawa's three-game losing streak, but also reversed the team's past of going 0-6 when facing elimination.

"This is big for us," said Spezza, inserted into the lineup to bolster a 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," Scott Niedermayer said. "No one thought 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 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, 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.

Spezza immediately showed his offensive capabilities, the key reason the Senators selected him second overall in the 2001 draft.

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