Thursday, May 22, 2003

Senators force Game 7 with Devils

The Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Ottawa Senators were short on cash in the regular season. Now they're rich with momentum in the Eastern Conference finals.

Defenseman Chris Phillips scored 15:51 into overtime to lift the Senators to a 2-1 victory Wednesday night and force a deciding Game 7 on Friday in Ottawa. It was the second straight game the Senators fought off elimination.

Vaclav Varada was trying to whack at the loose puck in front of Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, but all he was making contact with was the New Jersey goalie. Trailing the play, Phillips found the loose puck behind Varada and fired it into the net.

Goaltender Patrick Lalime kept the Senators alive in the extra session by fighting off several New Jersey flurries. The biggest threat came from Brian Gionta, who was stopped on a 2-on-1 with Patrik Elias.

In making 30 saves, Lalime looked more like the goalie who held opponents to two goals or fewer in 11 straight playoff games than the one who yielded 10 goals to the Devils in three consecutive losses after Game 1.

Brodeur made 31 saves for New Jersey and has allowed just nine goals in nine home playoff games.

The goaltenders' sharp play came despite choppy ice that had to be attended to several times during the game. A daytime college graduation held at the arena left holes in the ice in the neutral zone.

New Jersey, trying to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the third time in the last four years, has never lost a series in which it has led 3-1.

The Senators have never advanced this far in the playoffs in their 11-year history.

The winner of Friday's game will face the Mighty Ducks at Anaheim in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Tuesday night. The Ducks, the West champions, have been idle since clinching their series Friday.

The Senators, who are 4-0 in overtime in the playoffs, filed for bankruptcy and were late with players' paychecks during the season.

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