OTTAWA – With the game slipping away and his power play in shambles, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean made the unorthodox decision to sit three of his stars – Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza – to begin the third period of Monday night's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place.
Brandon Prust was called for tripping at 1:44. Michalek was first to hit the ice at 4:44, Alfredsson followed 10 seconds later and Spezza didn't take his first shift until 6:50.
"The [second] unit had scored on the power play in the first period, so we put them on the ice to start that [power play]," MacLean said.
Spezza, the club's No. 1 center, only took six shifts in the third period. Spezza appeared to struggle throughout the majority of the game, and was having difficulty connecting on his passes. Spezza was curt when asked why he was held off the ice, particularly during the man-advantage.
"[MacLean] didn't say anything," Spezza said. "He just felt like we needed some different guys."
MacLean played coy when asked why his star didn't see as many shifts.
"Well, [Spezza's] not injured," he said. "I don't think [I was] sending a message."
Alfredsson's frustrations appeared to get the better of him in the third. At the end of his first shift, which lasted 33 seconds, the captain took a hard hit from John Mitchell. The Sens' captain skated back to the bench and slammed his stick across the top of the boards. He then hopped over the boards and proceeded to take his temper out on the remainder of his stick and several water bottles.
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"I was [frustrated]," Alfredsson said. "We didn't start on the power play in the third, and I can understand that too, because we weren't very good. But we weren't on the ice. Finally we get on the ice and then we take a penalty, so we didn't get on for a while after that. I probably should have handled myself better."
Television cameras caught MacLean and Alfredsson in a discussion afterward, but MacLean brushed off any question regarding what may have been said.
"Frustration is a useless emotion to me," he said. "We didn't talk about it directly. But we will."
Added MacLean: "[I don't think] we're frustrated. We've been here since training camp and these are things you have to learn. It's a hard thing to do. We didn't expect that the Rangers were just going to come in here and say, 'Hey guys, we're ready to go home.' But maybe we thought they were. I don't know for sure. But they sure came out and played and we didn't match their level of desperation."
Ottawa now goes into Madison Square Garden on Thursday without history in their favor. Prior to Monday, the Sens had twice lost a Game 6 after being up 3-2 in a series and were defeated by the Buffalo Sabres in 1997 and in 2002 by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They have never won a Game 7.