OTTAWA — Upon further review, the Ottawa Senators are right back in the Stanley Cup finals.
Daniel Alfredsson broke out of a scoring slump with the help of the replay booth, and Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger deflected the go-ahead goal into his own net during Ottawa’s three-goal second period, giving the Senators a 5-3 victory over the Ducks on Saturday night.
That was enough to cut Anaheim’s series lead to 2-1 and ensure the Senators another trip to Southern California. They can get even with the Ducks in Game 4 on Monday night.
Alfredsson had been searching for a bit of luck during a frustrating two-plus games against the Ducks checking line of Samuel Pahlsson, Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer. He got it when Wade Redden’s shot from the left point hit the Senators captain in the left skate, as he charged the net, and slid past goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to tie it 3-3 with 3:46 left in the second.
Referee Dan O’Halloran immediately waved off the power-play goal before going to the phone at the scorer’s table. The good news got to the Senators bench before the official replay ruling was announced, and coach Bryan Murray happily shook his fist shortly before O’Halloran pointed to center ice to signal the goal.
“For me it felt like I never kicked the puck, I never lifted my foot,” Alfredsson said. “It felt like a goal.”
Alfredsson, who leads the NHL with 11 playoff goals, was mobbed at the bench by teammates. They appeared every bit as relieved for Alfredsson, the only player to appear all 97 Ottawa postseason games since the franchise was reborn in 1992.
The Ducks had won five straight since falling behind 2-1 to Detroit in the Western Conference finals. They are 0-5 in road Cup finals games in two appearances, compared to 5-0 at home.
Ottawa, which managed only two power-play goals in the first two games at Anaheim, took its first lead since the opener on Pronger’s gaffe. That was enough to give the current Senators franchise its first win in the finals.
The boisterous crowd of red-clad fans was still buzzing about Alfredsson’s goal when Oleg Saprykin shook off Francois Beauchemin’s big check behind the Anaheim net. He came out of the corner and got the puck to Dean McAmmond, who blindly slung the puck behind his back toward the crease. Pronger hit it and couldn’t sweep it away before it found the open right side at 18:34.
Giguere angrily kicked the puck away from the crease in his worst performance of the playoffs. He hadn’t allowed more than three goals in his previous 15 appearances, but was tagged for five on 29 shots.
Chris Neil and Mike Fisher also scored for the Senators, who erased three one-goal deficits in their first home game in 17 days and the first Stanley Cup finals contest in Canada’s capital in 80 years. The win was sealed when Anton Volchenkov took a pass in the slot from Antoine Vermette and made it 5-3 at 8:22 of the third.
Senators goalie Ray Emery wasn’t as sharp as in Anaheim, but protected the one-goal lead just over four minutes into the third when he stopped Todd Marchant’s shot, and then smacked the rebound away with his stick before the puck could bound into the net.
He finished with 19 saves.
For at least one night, Ottawa’s top line of Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, could avoid questions about their lack of scoring punch. Trying to take advantage of the last line change at home, Murray worked to get the trio away from Anaheim’s checkers, who scored the winning goal in each of the first two games.
“Every line played real well,” Alfredsson said. “As a team we needed to have a good effort. Every line had a goal, and if you do that you can be successful.”
Although these teams didn’t meet during the regular season, they’ve found animosity. Before the opening faceoff, Neil and Moen jostled enough that they had to be split up. Tempers really rose in the third period when Pronger dropped McAmmond with a forearm to the chin.
McAmmond fell to his back and struck his head on the ice before sliding into the corner. He was attended to by the Senators medical staff before being helped to the dressing room. He was diagnosed with a head injury and didn’t return.
Pronger, who wasn’t penalized on the play, could face his second suspension of the playoffs. He received a one-game ban for a hit on Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom in the previous round.
“It’s not for me to decide what happens but it was an elbow to the head,” Murray said.
When Neil was drilled in front of the benches soon after, a full-force scrum broke out. Fisher sat on top of Ryan Getzlaf, while Anaheim’s Dustin Penner held down Peter Schaefer. Anaheim’s entire kid line of Penner, Getzlaf and Corey Perry went to the penalty box to serve roughing penalties.
Until then, their biggest contribution was in supplying the bulk of the Ducks’ offense.
Perry gave Anaheim a 2-1 lead in the second period with his fifth of the playoffs at 5:20, but Fisher tied it 27 seconds later.