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Spezza: 'Fans can make a big difference' for us

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Sens goaltender Craig Anderson salutes the fans at Scotiabank Place after being named the game's second star Wednesday night following a 3-2 overtime win over the Rangers (Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

For those watching from afar, it was a moment to catch a breath from the tension of it all.

Not for the 20,340 faithul inside Scotiabank Place, however, who seized the opportunity to ratchet up the heat on the opposition just a little bit more.

Almost to a man, the Ottawa Senators credited their "seventh man" — the boisterous fans who turned their home rink into a deafening cauldron of noise — with helping turn the tide against the New York Rangers during Wednesday's crucial 3-2 overtime triumph that squared the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final at two games apiece.

While the full house sat in stunned silence when the Blueshirts jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on a pair of power-play goals. But they were in full roar by the 7:04 mark of the second period, when Milan Michalek's marker broke through the wall that had been Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who blanked the Senators 1-0 with a 39-save performance on Monday night in Game 3.

Shortly afterward, the huge throng cut loose with a three-minute standing ovation that shook Scotiabank Place to the rafters — and provided a stunning emotional lift for their hockey heroes.

"It was phenomenal," Senators centre Jason Spezza said earlier today in recalling the scene. "You get energy from that kind of stuff. Fans can make a big difference and they have, I think. There can be times in games when you're tired and by hearing an ovation like that ... it's hard to explain the feeling you get, but it can definitely give you that extra jolt to get you into the period.

"When the fans get behind you like that, it's a great feeling."

Goaltender Craig Anderson was equally blown away by the extended ovation.

"This is a hockey town and they showed it," said Anderson, who received another thunderous round of cheers when he hit the ice afterward as the game's second star. "It was unbelievable. Our fans helped us play about 10 or 20 per cent better and they have the ability to do that for us. They gave us the energy that we needed when we were a little bit flat."

They also bathed him in chants of "An-dy, An-dy" with every big save he made on a night when he turned aside 31 of 33 shots he faced — many of the high-quality type.

"Our fans got behind us and made the building absolutely erupt," Anderson said of the turning of the tide that followed Michalek's goal. "It was a neat feeling and boosted our morale right down the line. Our guys did a great job of responding and continuing with momentum and pushing forward and our fans kept the pressure up."

They'll be back to do it at least one more time on Monday, when Game 6 is contested at Scotiabank Place. First, though, the series heads to Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday for what should be a pivotal Game 5 (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Fewer than 150 tickets remain for Monday's game.

'Nothing changed' with status of Alfredsson

Daniel Alfredsson was on hand to smile for the camera. But beyond joining the Senators for their annual team photo Thursday, there was nothing new to report about the condition of the Ottawa captain — or when he might return to action.

Alfredsson suffered a concussion when he took an elbow to the head from the Rangers' Carl Hagelin midway through Game 2 on Saturday in New York. He hasn't seen any game action since and head coach Paul MacLean said "nothing's changed" in his status.

"I think he's feeling better all the time and he's working out," said MacLean. "We're not practising today, so he's not skating today, either. We'll see where it is tomorrow. He's in the process (of recovery), anyway."

As to a possible return date, MacLean said "I can't speculate as to what day it's going to be. It's one of those things where we have to be patient and it'll happen when it happens."

There was also no update on forward Jesse Winchester, who left Wednesday's game during the second period with a lower-body injury and didn't return.

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