As the world remains frozen indefinitely in this COVID-19 limbo, we’re all waiting, looking forward to better days ahead. In times like these, while taking a TV break from Tiger King, it can be therapeutic to mentally check in on better days from the past. Over the last 28 years, the modern-day Ottawa Senators have had a lot of great, uplifiting moments. Today, Steve Warne looks at the top 10 most memorable games in Senators’ history.
#10: April 15th 2017
Round 1, Game 2 in Ottawa: Ottawa 4 Boston 3
The Playoff Comeback vs Boston: The Senators’ magical 2017 playoff run might never have happened without this comeback victory. The Sens had already lost Game 1 at home and were in danger of losing again in Game 2. Boston was up 3-1 in the third period before Ottawa fought back. Derrick Brassard’s equalizer was an Erik Karlsson masterpiece. Karlsson got the puck at the right point, sprinted across the ice and down the left side. With every defender fully focused on him, EK65 opened up and whipped a perfect, cross-ice pass to a wide open Brassard who snapped home a one-timer.
Dion Phaneuf, an unlikely scoring hero, won in overtime on a harmless looking shot from the left point.
#9 March 5th, 2004
Regular season Game 67: Philadelphia 5 Ottawa 3
The most penalized game in NHL history: In each of the previous two years, the Senators had eliminated the Flyers in the playoffs and the bad blood spilled into a new season. A week or so before this game, Martin Havlat had slashed Flyers’ forward Mark Recchi in the face. Recchi’s coach Ken Hitchcock said, “Someday someone’s going to make (Havlat) eat his lunch. This is something, in my opinion, that the players should take care of.”
Havlat’s first game back from a 2 game suspension was ill-timed, immediately facing the Flyers again. Enforcers Donald Brashear and Rob Ray squared off in the final 2 minutes of the game. This touched off one fight after another. When the smoke had cleared, 419 PIMs were assessed, breaking the record of 406. Somehow, Jason Spezza ended up with the most penalty minutes at 35, more than he usually gets in a season.
#8: May 2nd 1998
Round 1, Game 6: Ottawa 3 New Jersey 1
Phillips knifes in and forces Game 7: The Devils entered this series as the East’s number one seed and the heavy favourite, 23 points better than the 8th place Senators. The Sens had never won a playoff series before and, up 3-2 in the series, their home fans were more than ready to witness history. The Devils pushed hard in the final minute with the extra attacker, forcing a scrum behind the Ottawa net. Finally, Magnus Arvedson was able to chip the puck past two defenders, allowing Shaun Van Allen to clear the zone, now on a 2 on 1 against Doug Gilmour. Van Allen casually slid the puck over to Igor Kravchuk who buried it into the open net, “driving a nail through the Devils’ heart.”
#7: May 10th, 2002
Round 2, Game 5: Ottawa 4 Toronto 2
Alfie vs Tucker: In the Battle of Ontario, this game is a true highlight. The victory gave Ottawa a 3-2 series lead going home and it looked like, after losing the first two series in The Battle, the third time might be the charm (spoiler: it wasn’t). It’s the winning goal that was particularly memorable and satisfying for Sens fans. It came off the stick of Daniel Alfredsson, just moments after he had taken out Darcy Tucker, public enemy number one, with a controversial hit into the boards. The Leafs and their fans were enraged that there was no call on Alfredsson. Sens fans still quietly smile over an epic play that ended so well for their hero and so badly for the arch villain.
#6: February 22nd, 2007
Regular Season Game 61: Buffalo 6 Ottawa 5
Emery happily fights twice: This was an era when the Sens and Sabres didn’t like each other very much. On this night, the dislike exploded into hate when Chris Neil caught Buffalo co-captain Chris Drury with a hard, blind side hit. Drury was left dazed and bloodied and, when Neil wasn’t penalized, Sabres’ head coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough. On the next faceoff, Ruff used last change to sent out his toughest players against Ottawa’s skill guys.
This touched off a memorable line brawl that featured Sens goalie Ray Emery getting in two separate fights, smiling the whole time like a kid in candy store. Meanwhile, Ruff and Sens head coach Bryan Murray both jumped up on the boards to loudly express their best wishes and warm regards.
#5 April 12th, 1997
Regular season Game 82: Ottawa 1 Buffalo 0
Duchesne clinches the first Senator playoff berth: In the spring of ’97, the young Senators appeared to be a long shot to get to their first playoff. But the team managed to catch fire that year with young, emerging players like Alexei Yashin, Daniel Alfredsson, Radek Bonk and Wade Redden. With little room for error, the Sens went on a 10–4–2 tear in their final 16 games of the season, including a must win game versus Buffalo on the final day. With 4 minutes left in a scoreless tie, Yashin hit Steve Duchesne with a cross ice pass that he shot hard along the ice, beating the great Dominik Hasek as the Corel Centre went wild. The club held on for a 1-0 victory and secured their very first playoff spot.
#4 May 5th, 2013
Round 1, Game 3: Ottawa 6 Montreal 1
The line brawl with Montreal: After 20 years in the same division, the Sens finally got to play Montreal in the playoffs and it was worth the wait. An angry tone was set in Game 1 in Montreal as Eric Gryba laid a massive hit on Lars Eller that left him unconscious and bloodied. The Habs were furious about the hit and about Paul Maclean’s attitude, as the Sens’ coach attempted to shift blame on “Player 61, whoever he is” (Habs defenceman Raphael Diaz), believing Eller should be mad at Diaz for such a dangerous pass.
In Game 3, Ottawa had just made it 4-1 with 7 minutes left and Montreal sent a decent scrapper in Ryan White out to take the ensuing draw. The Sens – perhaps sensing that Montreal was preparing to send a message – sent out their tougher guys, including Chris Neil and Matt Kassian. When White exchanged stickwork with Zack Smith, things got a little crazy. The Sens dominated both the brawl and, thanks to J.G. Pageau’s hat trick, also the scoreseheet. The Habs were further enraged when MacLean, who Habs’ forward Brandon Prust called a “bug-eyed, fat walrus,” called a timeout with 17 seconds left.
#3 April 29, 2017
Round 2, Game 2: Ottawa 6 New York Rangers 5
Pageau Scores Four: It’s rare to get 4 goals in an NHL game. It’s rarer still in the playoffs (only 35 guys have ever done it), but when it includes singlehandedly rallying your team from a 5-3 deficit to win a playoff game 6-5 in overtime, it’s pretty much bonkers. J.G Pageau did all that. On a night where the Rangers kept scoring what appeared to be back breakers, the Sens just kept fighting. Pageau’s 3rd goal of the night tied the game with a minute to play and then he won it with a ridiculous wrister in overtime. Ottawa would go on to win the series in 6 games.
#2 May 19, 2007
Round 3, Game 5: Ottawa 3 Buffalo 2 (OT)
Alfie sends the Sens to the Cup Final: On a warm, May afternoon, most of us watched back in Ottawa as Daniel Alfredsson made history, releasing a harmless looking shot that gave the Senators their first and only Eastern Conference title. That fact alone make this a truly unforgettable game. The Sabres were the NHL’s President’s Trophy champions that season so it was surprising to see Ottawa storm out to a 3-0 series lead. When the Sens couldn’t finish the sweep at home in Game 4, the Sabres had life. Now, as Game 5 trudged on into overtime, Buffalo was a goal away from having a real chance. Alfie put things to rest with the biggest goal in Sens’ history.
#1 October 8th, 1992
Regular season game 1: Ottawa 5 Montreal 3
Sens first game in 1992-93: I’ll admit that this won’t be everyone’s top choice. But if you grew up in Ottawa and of a certain vintage, it’s hard not to make this your number one. I grew up worshipping the NHL and the thought of my hometown ever getting a franchise seemed laughable. I didn’t even dream about it as a child because it seemed so impossible. So it was completely surreal to be in the building that night; to see the Montreal Canadiens come skating onto Ottawa ice. The Sens’ victory was incredible but just a bonus. The picture was much bigger than that. The NHL had arrived, against all odds, and nothing short of Ottawa’s first Stanley Cup victory will ever touch the memory of game number one.
By Steve Warne