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Jean-Gabriel Pageau hometown hero for Senators

Forward scores four goals against Rangers in Game 2 win

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- There were no hats left to throw. The crowd had to make do, so they lifted their voices.

The sound ricocheted around Canadian Tire Centre, a mass of screaming and exultation and relief. White towels waved overhead. It was perfection.

It was not just that the Ottawa Senators had prevailed 6-5 in double overtime against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series. It was that he had done it.

Because Jean-Gabriel Pageau, more than any other member of the Senators, is theirs.

 

[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Senators series coverage]

 

He comes from across the river, in Gatineau, a player whose family is at hand for off days and game days, one who was raised there and played there in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, for the Gatineau Olympiques. He is steeped in this place. He belongs to them.

And now he had done the impossible. Or as near to the impossible as he could get.

Pageau, the undersized shutdown specialist who has earned the nickname 'Honey Badger,' had scored four goals, including a natural hat trick to finish the game. He scored the goal that brought the Senators within one, the goal that tied the game with 1:02 left in the third period, and the game-winner at 2:54 of double overtime.

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Pageau snaps in fourth for 2OT win

He had vanquished the Rangers and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, putting the Senators up 2-0 in the best-of-7 series, sending them to Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) with a commanding lead.

So, of course he had come to the rink expecting this, right? He had felt some magic in his stick, confidence in his stride, ready for the day and the game and the opponent. He had felt ready. Right?

"Not really, actually. Three p.m. games are pretty hard," Pageau said. "I thought I eat too much before the game. I had two chicken parm."

Oh. OK.

Well, that seals that. Before Game 3, Senators coach Guy Boucher should be ordering in from Little Italy.

Barring that, it's not hard to see what's so likeable about Pageau, about his game and what he brings to the Senators and what he means to the team and for the team. It was easy for his teammates to smile when talking about him, and not just because of his otherworldly performance.

They genuinely seem to like him, to appreciate him, to root for him.

"He's a heart-and-soul guy of our team that plays hard night in, night out, doesn't matter what game it is in the regular season, you know that he's showing up, doing everything he can for his teammates," defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "Just great to see him get rewarded by a four-goal game, overtime winner. It's a legendary game, and he deserves every bit of credit that he's getting and that he's going to get. What a performance by him."

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Pageau completes hatty to tie game

Still, this was not new territory for Pageau. He had scored a hat trick in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 5, 2013, against the Montreal Canadiens, so seven of his nine playoff goals have come in two games.

He scored his first on Saturday at 13:59 of the first period, an unassisted goal that was set up from a turnover by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. His second happened much later, after it seemed like maybe the game was out of reach. It came with the Senators down by two goals, at 16:41 of the third on a tip of a Zack Smith shot. The third - which brought down all those hats - was also a tip, of a Kyle Turris shot with 62 seconds remaining before the series became 1-1.

And then there was the winner, when Pageau roofed a two-on-one chance over Lundqvist. Not that defenseman Erik Karlsson had Pageau pegged for that. As he said, "I thought his quota was full."

It wasn't.

"Four goals, that's absolutely sick," Boucher said. "It's not just four goals, it's the tying goal, it's the overtime one. But it couldn't happen to a better person. He's just so liked by his peers. A guy who plays at the NHL at that size (5-foot-10, 180), first of all, that's unbelievable, but to be able to do what he does every night, you have to respect the man, you've got to respect the player and everything he brings to the game and to our group.

"When you ask players who they want to play with, the No. 1 name that always comes is Pageau. It doesn't matter if it's an offensive player, a defensive player, that's always the name that comes up. Today was just one of these nights when you know why everybody wants to play with this guy. It's not just a big heart, it's not a lot of character. He's a good hockey player."

And so they were left singing, as the crowd in Ottawa is wont to do, "Pageau, Pageau, Pageau, Pageau," the Ole soccer chant cribbed and altered to celebrate their favorite son. They were left celebrating in a game that the players -- and the crowd -- perhaps didn't quite believe they deserved to win.

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Pageau beats Lundqvist from the circle

"Hearing them screaming my name, I think it was just keeping me motivated to go back out there and give everything I have," Pageau said. "Obviously I got a couple of lucky bounces, but it feels really good to do that at home. It is a special moment. I'll remember that, I think, for the rest of my life, for sure."

Because the Senators had Pageau. They had chicken parm. And they had the kind of moment every kid dreams of, scoring and scoring and scoring and scoring again in front of a home crowd in a home town in a playoff game.

They no longer had their hats. But, at the end, they had all they needed.

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