Ducks silencing Sens top guns

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At some point during this series the Ottawa Senators' offense may wake up, but by then it could be too late.

The Senators cruised through the Eastern Conference playoffs with the help of a potent offensive attack, but that scoring touch has disappeared in the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals against the Anaheim Ducks.

Ottawa has run into a tough, defensive-minded club in the Ducks and the Senators were handed a pair of one-goal losses in Anaheim to fall behind two games to none in the best-of-seven set. The Senators, who were second in the NHL with 288 goals during the regular season, have scored just twice in the first 120 minutes of the finals.

A great deal of the blame for the Senators' scoring drought has rightfully been placed on the team's top-line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. The trio has combined for just two assists through the first two games of the finals while playing mainly against Anaheim's checking line of center Samuel Pahlsson and wingers Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer.

Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza and his linemates have been ineffective against the Ducks.
The Senators top-line had become one of the most-feared in the league and was nearly unstoppable throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Alfredsson, the right wing and captain of the team, has set a team record with 10 goals in this postseason, but his 18 total points places him third amongst his linemates in scoring.

Heatley and Spezza are leading the Senators with 21 points apiece. The Senators record for points in a single postseason before this year was 16, a mark set by Marian Hossa in 2003.

The cold streak by Ottawa's top-line has resulted in the team losing consecutive games for the first time in this playoff year. The Senators had a 12-3 record through the Eastern Conference portion of the postseason.

After the Ducks pulled out the Game 1 win by a 3-2 count, Ottawa's top-line was already fielding questions about what Anaheim was doing to frustrate them.

"It's not so much what they did, it's what we didn't do as a line," Spezza said. "We didn't have as much jump."

Spezza failed to give the Ducks credit after Game 1 and the entire line had little to say after the second contest, when Anaheim posted a 1-0 shutout victory over the Senators.

Anaheim's checking line has not only helped silence the Senators, but has also provided both game-winners in the first two tilts of the series. Moen's goal with 2:51 remaining in the third period of Game 1 held up and Pahlsson scored the only tally of Game 2 with 5:44 left in regulation.

Pahlsson's tally is particularly of note since Heatley turned the puck over in the neutral zone to spur the defensive center to his third goal of the playoffs.

After gaining control of Heatley turnover, Pahlsson flew into the Ottawa zone with a full head of steam before hitting the breaks once inside the right circle. From there, he feathered a shot through a defender's legs that beat Ray Emery stick side.

"They're a good defensive team," said Heatley. "We have to find a way to get it done. They hold up a lot. They do a good job that way."

Senators head coach Bryan Murray even tried to change the lines up a bit on Wednesday, replacing Alfredsson on the right wing with a few different players, and in turn paired the Ottawa captain with centerman Mike Fisher, but nothing seemed to work.

"I was trying to get Alfredsson with Fisher at parts of the game to get away from the checking and the pair of defense that they like to play against the Spezza line," said Murray.

The checking line of Anaheim has been the story of this series, as the play of superstar defensemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer was the talk through the first three rounds. However, the one player who seems to frustrate every team he plays against is goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has done more than his share in stopping the Ottawa offensive attack.

Giguere has faced just 36 shots through the first two games of this series, but has stopped 34 of those attempts and a few of the saves have been spectacular.

He made 16 saves in the Game 2 shutout and some of his biggest stops came in the opening period. Giguere's sharp play from the outset helped Anaheim kill off a two-man advantage in the first period and Ottawa was unable to create pressure on a consistent basis in the final two periods.

The good news for Ottawa is that the next two games of the Cup will take place in front of its home fans at Scotiabank Place, but if the Sens continue to struggle on offense they're not going to get another chance to win in Anaheim.

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Dan Di Sciullo
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