April 18, 2004
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinal; Maple Leafs lead 3-2.
TIME: Sunday, 7 p.m. EDT.
If only the rest of the Ottawa Senators were as confident as their captain.
The Senators will try to fulfill the guarantee of captain Daniel Alfredsson and force Game 7 when they face Ed Belfour and the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of their quarterfinal series.
Following a 2-0 loss in Game 5 Friday that put the Senators one loss away from elimination, Alfredsson guaranteed his club would win Game 6 and would return to Toronto and win the series.
"I don't think you've seen the last of us yet (in Toronto)," Alfredsson said following a closed-door meeting. "We're going to go home, win and force Game 7. Then we'll come back in here and we'll win the series."
Making guarantees is nothing new for Alfredsson, who guaranteed the Senators would score on Belfour in Game 4 after they had been shut out in consecutive games. Alfredsson helped that guarantee materialize with a goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory.
Alfredsson also guaranteed earlier this season that the Senators would win the Stanley Cup - without mentioning when that would be.
"He's sure making a lot of guarantees, but we're a confident group," Toronto's Joe Nieuwendyk said.
Ottawa is one loss way from being ousted from the playoffs by Toronto for the fourth time in five seasons.
"We know that we're capable of having a better effort than we did in this game," Alfredsson said. "We just didn't have our game and then we got a bad bounce. You can't play the way that we played and expect to win. We have to be better."
Even the absence of Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin wasn't enough to help the Senators overcome Belfour, clearly the best player in this series.
In five games, Belfour has three shutouts - all by 2-0 scores - stopping 147 of 155 shots. He is the 12th goalie in NHL history and second this season to record three shutouts in one playoff series.
"Our team defence definitely was there tonight," said Belfour, who has five shutouts in his last seven games. "We'll take it any way we can get it. I'm just taking it one game at a time. The guys really are letting me see the shots."
Sundin, Toronto's postseason leader with four points, was scratched with a left leg injury sustained in Game 4. Rookie Matt Stajan made his playoff debut in Sundin's place.
"Mats is a huge player for us and everybody in here knew they had to step up their game and they did that," Belfour said.
While an injury forced Sundin to sit out, Nieuwendyk returned to the lineup Friday after sitting out Game 4 with back spasms. Nieuwendyk's third goal of the series, with 4:42 left in regulation, closed the scoring.
Right wing Peter Bondra was expected to be one of this season's most important acquisitions after the Senators acquired him from Washington on Feb. 18. Bondra, however, has no points and is a minus-two in this series.
The Senators trailed New Jersey 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals last season before winning the next two games to force Game 7 at home. The Devils won the deciding game 4-3.
Should Ottawa avoid elimination, Game 7 would be Tuesday in Toronto.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Maple Leafs - 103 points; 4th seed. Senators - 102 points; 5th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Gary Roberts and Nieuwendyk, 3 goals; Sundin, 3 assists and 4 points; Nik Antropov, 12 PIM. Senators - Marian Hossa, 3 goals; Martin Havlat, 3 assists, Hossa, Havlat and Alfredsson, 3 points; Chris Phillips, 12 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Maple Leafs - Power play: 13.0 percent (3 for 23). Penalty killing: 88.9 percent (24 for 27). Senators - Power play: 11.1 percent (3 for 27). Penalty killing: 87.0 percent (20 for 23).
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Belfour (3-2, 3 SO, 1.60 GAA); Trevor Kidd (no appearances). Senators - Patrick Lalime (2-3, 1.82); Martin Prusek (no appearances).-- Associated Press