Senators, Devils Set for Game 7 Showdown

Friday, May 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OTTAWA (AP) _ New Jersey Devils coach Pat Burns tried to put a little added pressure on the Ottawa Senators.

``It's not us anymore,'' Burns said Thursday. ``They're going back home and they have to win at home.''

Ottawa has rallied from a 3-1 deficit to force a deciding Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals, with the winner to face the well-rested Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the Stanley Cup finals.

New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur called it a toss-up.

``I don't know if we have any edge. It comes down to one hockey game,'' Brodeur said. ``We have experience, they have the excitement of their crowd. Hopefully we'll use what we have in our bag to try to neutralize what they're going to throw at us.''

The Senators aren't underestimating the Devils.

``I think with their experience, they can be a very dangerous team,'' Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. ``They know how to win. If we're not at our best, we can't win.''

The Senators are providing a dramatic flair in making the deepest postseason run in their 11-year history, and erasing the dreadful memories of past playoff disappointments.

Their last two victories, including Wednesday night's 2-1 overtime thriller, ended an 0-6 streak in games they faced elimination. And they're doing it in a season in which the franchise filed for bankruptcy.

Suddenly, anything seems possible for a team that earned home-ice advantage through the playoffs by finishing with the NHL's best regular-season record, five points ahead of the Devils.

``Why we got the Presidents' Cup is for tomorrow night,'' Ottawa coach Jacques Martin said. ``That's the key. You want to have that seventh game here. We have the luxury of having our fans, the noise, the support, the energy. I think that's a big, big thing.''

Just as big is the newfound confidence the Senators possess.

``It's sure showed the character that we have in this dressing room,'' said defenseman Chris Phillips, who scored the Game 6 winner. ``We've been through some tough times in previous playoffs with high expectations, and high expectations of ourselves. We know this is a great opportunity.

``And we don't want it to end sooner than we want.''

The Devils, attempting to reach the finals for the third time in four years, are a playoff-savvy team.

``We've got a veteran group and a lot of guys that have been through these Game 7s before, and we feel confident we can win in this building,'' center Joe Nieuwendyk said. ``We've got one game, winner takes the series. That has to be our focus.''

It's an added bonus that Nieuwendyk intends to play, saying he feels fine after needing assistance _ favoring his left leg _ to get off the ice late in Game 6.

History doesn't provide either team an edge.

Ottawa has an 0-2 Game 7 record, but both losses came on the road. New Jersey is 4-6 in seventh games, and 2-5 on the road.

The Senators are attempting to become the 20th team in NHL history _ and fourth this postseason _ to overcome a 3-1 deficit. New Jersey was the only team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in a conference finals series, against Philadelphia in 2000.

The Devils, in comparison, are 8-0 when holding a 3-1 series lead, but they've never allowed it to reach a seventh game.