Islanders took advantage of newly physical Senators

OTTAWA (AP)—The Ottawa Senators were too anxious to prove they weren’t going to be playoff pushovers anymore.

After his team stunned the top-seeded Senators with a surprisingly easy 3-0 series-opening victory one night earlier, New York coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday that Ottawa’s zeal to establish a physical presence worked completely in the Islanders’ favor.

“I was surprised by their lack of discipline,” he said. “They took some shots to prove they were tough and that ended up costing them.”

Though New York scored once in five power-play opportunities, Senators coach Jacques Martin lamented his team’s penalty trouble.

Martin pointed out that the Islanders’ two other goals were essentially specialty teams goals—one coming on a 4-on-4 and the other just after Ottawa killed a penalty.

“Maybe we were focusing a little too much on finishing checks or going out our way to make hits,” defenseman Chris Phillips said. “That’s not us. We want to get that puck and use our speed.”

Instead of using the skilled play that allowed them to set team records during the regular season with 52 wins and 113 points, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Senators seemed more concerned with countering the tight-checking play they expected from New York with their own force.

“Everybody tried to be so physical, but that’s not our game,” right wing Marian Hossa said. “We were expecting that from them and we just have to play our game.”

Islanders captain Michael Peca, who faced softer Ottawa teams in the playoffs previously with Buffalo, expected the Senators to be eager to demonstrate their grit.

“I don’t think anybody should be surprised that Ottawa played a physical game,” he said. “Everybody’s been ramming it down their throats that they weren’t physical enough in the playoffs so they wanted to show people that they could come out and play a physical playoff game.”

Ottawa has a history of disappointing its fans in the playoffs. Despite seven straight postseason appearances and three 100-point seasons in five, the Senators have just two series wins and none when they have home-ice advantage.

The Senators, who led the NHL with 87 power-play goals, also failed to threaten with the manpower advantage Wednesday night.

Ottawa went 0-for-7 on the power play, though two of the opportunities were the result of a double minor to New York’s Eric Godard in the final minute.

“We were standing around and not working,” Senators defenseman Wade Redden said. “If you let them come on us and we’re not moving, they’re going to take the puck from us and ice it.

“On the power play, you’ve got to be working just as hard and even harder than the penalty-kill team to accomplish anything. We were maybe looking to make the easy play a bit too much instead of just getting it at the net and battling for the rebound.”

Godard, who clipped Ottawa forward Chris Neil with a high stick to the head with 32 seconds left, was given a one-game suspension by the NHL and won’t be in uniform when the best-of-seven series resumes Saturday.

Islanders center Alexei Yashin is braced for another rough reception in Game 2.

“It will be tougher and they will be stronger,” said the former Senators captain, who drew his biggest boos of the evening after scoring to put New York up 2-0 midway through the first period.

Facing a team that didn’t lose consecutive home games throughout the regular season, the Islanders expect Ottawa to come up with a more cohesive effort in Game 2.

“There are a lot of people in hockey who pick Ottawa to win four of the next five games,” Laviolette said. “They are still a very confident team and a great hockey team.”

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