by Todd Anderson
Somewhat lost in rookie goaltender Ray Emery's outstanding performance during the Senators' 2-1 victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal on Thursday was the contribution from another rookie, forward Patrick Eaves.
While Emery was recognized as the game's first star after turning in an impressive 29-save performance, Eaves also played a crucial part in the victory for Ottawa.
During an early third-period power play, Eaves parked himself in front of Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller and set up a screen that allowed defenceman Wade Redden to fire in a point shot for the eventual game-winning goal. All season long Eaves has dutifully accepted coach Bryan Murray's direction to making life difficult for opposing goaltenders.
"That's my job when I'm out there," the 22-year-old said on Friday after a team meeting. "I try to take the vision away from the goalie. It's really gratifying to look back and see the puck in the net and the goalie looking around because he didn't see the shot."
Creating traffic and pouncing on rebounds in front of Miller can be attributed to most of the Senators' scoring in the series. Of the 10 goals scored by Ottawa in the four games so far, five have come off a rebound and three have been the result of a screen. The other two have come from a breakaway and a cross-crease one-timer.
"Right now it doesn't matter how you get them," Eaves said. "I like where we're at mentally. I think we'll come out with another good effort (on Saturday)."
As for Emery, his teammates feel he has performed well in goal throughout the series but his play in Game 4 stood out.
"He's been solid for us all along," team captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "He was phenomenal (in Game 4)."
Added head coach Bryan Murray, "Ray was really good for us when we needed him to be."
Emery made seven saves after Redden's goal, including an acrobatic glove-hand stop on a dangerous shot from Maxim Afinogenov with three minutes remaining.