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Turris stepping up big for Senators in playoff drive

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators centre Kyle Turris made his biggest contribution to the team yet on Wednesday night, scoring an overtime goal against the New York Rangers that tied up their first-round playoff series 2-2 (Getty Images).

Some days, he might have been Wayne Gretzky or Joe Sakic.

Or maybe even Steve Yzerman, his biggest hockey hero of them all. But as he pounded tennis balls toward the net in the driveway of his Vancouver-area home, Kyle Turris often had the thought that is familiar to so many aspiring young Canadian hockey stars.

Maybe this will be me. Maybe I'll get to be the Stanley Cup playoff hero.

Rest assured, there are no maybes for Turris in that area anymore. Not after his dramatic overtime goal Wednesday night allowed the Ottawa Senators to edge the New York Rangers 3-2 in a tense Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series. And surely not after the 22-year-old centre saluted a roaring crowd at Scotiabank Place after being named the game's first star.

Afterward, Turris remarked that he'd "lived every kid's Stanley Cup dream." The same one a young boy firing shots in his driveway had so many times all those years ago.

"You grow up playing in the drivewy, shooting tennis balls on the net in front of the garage and just thinking one day you'll be in the Stanley Cup playoffs and score that goal," Turris said earlier today in reflecting on his magical moment. "Last night, I got lucky it was me."

Beyond the thunderous cheers he heard at Scotiabank Place, the response to Turris' goal has been overwhelming. He admitted it "took me awhile to finally get to sleep" after he enjoyed a quiet post-game dinner with his parents, his girlfriend, and Binghamton Senators forward Patrick Wiercioch — a fellow B.C. boy and one of the Senators centre's best friends — and his girlfriend. His Twitter account (@kyleturris) was swamped with messages from well-wishing friends.

All of it is sweet music to a guy who spent the first two months of the season at home in New Westminster, B.C., embroiled in a contract dispute with the Phoenix Coyotes. Turris was convinced he was no longer a fit in the Arizona desert and wanted a fresh start. It arrived on Dec. 17 with his trade to the Senators in exchange for defence prospect David Rundblad and a draft pick.

With each passing day, that change of scenery seems like paradise. Turris was welcomed with open arms by a team with a dire need for a second-line centre, and he hasn't disappointed.

"We gave him a chance to get a fresh breath and come to a team that was accepting of him, and we needed him to be good," said Jason Spezza, the Senators' No. 1 centre. "He came in, had a great opportunity and made the most of it ... He's provided tremendous depth for us at the centre position and he's contributed since Day 1. So he's been a great pickup for us."

For his part, Turris never tires of thanking his teammates and head coach Paul MacLean for providing him with a welcoming environment in which he could thrive. Sensing that Turris was still kicking himself for not burying a last-second scoring chance in a 1-0 loss to the Rangers in Game 3, MacLean pulled the young centre aside during Wednesday's pre-game skate and told him to keep his head up, that his chance would come.

"I've been having so much fun with the group here and been so lucky to be in this position, with Ottawa giving me a chance and the guys making me feel so welcome and the coaching staff making me feel so confident," said Turris, the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. "I'm very lucky and I can't thank them enough.

"We have such a great combination of guys in the room and we mesh so well together. The chemistry is unlike (anything) I've seen in the past. It's just amazing. It just makes it that much more fun and everbody feels like they're contributing and a part of the team, and it makes everybody want to play for each other."

In 43 regular-season games in Ottawa, he produced 12 goals and 29 points, both career highs in his still-young National Hockey League career. MacLean, for one, believes the best is still yet to come.

"Ever since he's gotten here, he's grown as a player with the opportunity we had for him to have that second-line (centre) position," said MacLean. "And the offensive part of the game is just starting to come for him. I think moving forward, down the road in whatever's left of this year and next year, the offensive side of his game is going to continue to grow ... From game to game (in the playoffs), he's been a real consistent player for us."

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