Droves of Ottawa Senators fans get ready for Game Three of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final between the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. The game would be the Senators' lone victory in the series, and one of the most memorable games in team history. (Peter Raaymakers, Silver Seven)
Over the course of their 17-season history, the Ottawa Senators have put up some pretty exciting games. It remains to be seen if we'll get to see any top-ten worthy matchups this season, but we've certainly witnessed some great efforts from the teams Ottawa has iced over that time. Looking back, I've put together a list of the top ten games in the history of the franchise (at least this version; I didn't include games from the last-century Senators because, well, I didn't see any). The criteria are simple: Big games. Whether strong efforts, meaningful situations, or just all-around exciting, there were no pre-qualifiers to disqualify any games.
So, without further ado, here goes the list (with video, where available), starting from the bottom:
10. Nov. 2, 2005: Havlat and Alfredsson each score four as Ottawa romps Buffalo 10-4
Really the only meaningless regular-season game on the list, it was still a damn exciting game. Four goals for Daniel Alfredsson, four for Martin Havlat (who had just returned from a five-game suspension for kicking Hal Gill) and two for Dany Heatley (who, at this point, was still enjoying a honeymoon period in Ottawa). And Alfredsson waited until both Heatley and Havlat were done scoring, netting all four of his goals in the last 13 minutes of the game. It was also against the hated Buffalo Sabres, and it was in Buffalo, although it would be little solace when Buffalo ousted the Senators in the 2006 Eastern Conference Final later that season.
(Read the rest of the list after the jump... )
9. April 11, 2007: Senators soundly beat Penguins 6-3 in season playoff debut
This was, to me, a statement game. Sure, the Senators were technically favourites over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but there were plenty of doubters who'd picked the Pens to beat Ottawa in the series, especially after Ottawa went 5-8-1 in the last 14 games of the season. The Sens came out like gangbusters in an exciting Game One, though, with Andrej Meszaros scoring less than two minutes into the game and going up 3-0 before Pittsburgh even got a sniff on the scoresheet. Ottawa set the tone for the series, and went on to win in just five games.
8. May 2, 2002: Senators rout Maple Leafs 5-0 to go up 1-0 in Eastern Conference semi-final
It is with great scepticism that I include a playoff victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on this list (let alone two of them), since there's no doubt about what the series result was after this victory. But on this occasion, thanks in large part to 12 powerplay opportunities, the Senators took the play to Toronto in the series-opener, notching three goals before the end of the first and trying to suggest that, if the Leafs play physically punishing hockey, the Sens will just put up the PP points and make Toronto pay. An overtime loss the following game, though, and some very strong play from Curtis Joseph meant the Senators would eventually fall in the seven-game series.
7. June 2, 2007: Senators beat Anaheim Ducks in game three of the Stanley Cup Finals
Again, a bittersweet victory considering our knowledge of the series outcome, but the Senators' game three victory over the Ducks in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final was a huge one at the time. After dropping the first two games on the road, Ottawa bounced back with a strong win at home, coming back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits during the course of the game to take the game by a final score of 5-3. Dean McAmmond scored the eventual game-winner before leaving with a concussion after getting an elbow to the chops from Chris Pronger, but the Senators couldn't take advantage of the fact that Pronger was supended for game four, and lost the series in five.
6. April 18, 2004: Fisher scores OT winner against Toronto to force seventh game in quarter-finals
Mike Fisher's legend as a clutch performer took a big step forward with this overtime game-winning goal, and the Senators made a huge statement in the come-from-behind victory. With the Senators down 3-2 in the series, Toronto Maple Leafs defender Bryan McCabe gave Toronto a 1-0 lead on an early powerplay, but Patrick Lalime, who made 45 saves on the night, kept the Senators in the game until Zdeno Chara, who had been having a monster of a game, could finally solve Ed Belfour to force overtime. Both teams traded chances in the first overtime, although neither could solve the opposing goaltender, until Fisher fired a wrister past Belfour only 1:47 into the second overtime period to force a seventh and decisive game in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. Unfortunately, for all the good Lalime did in game six, he bombed in a game seven that gives Senators fans nightmares to this day, and Ottawa would lose the series.
5. May 21, 2003: Ottawa wins 2-1 in overtime to force decisive game seven in ECF versus New Jersey
Speaking of clutch performers, Chris Phillips has built himself a strong reputation as one, too, and that got a lot of help on this night back in 2003. With the Senators just having fought off elimination but still down 3-2 against the New Jersey Devils, the teams traded powerplay goals in regulation to send the game to overtime. Lalime and Martin Brodeur went save-for-save for much of the game, until late in the first overtime, Chris Phillips was able to put the puck past Brodeur to set the Senators up for a game seven, all-or-nothing grudge match two days later. Unfortunately, again, the Senators weren't able to follow up with another victory, and Jeff Friesen (among the most hated names in Ottawa Senators history) scored late to move New Jersey on to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they defeated the Might Ducks and won the big prize.
4. May 2, 1998: Senators defeat New Jersey 3-1 to clinch their first playoff-series victory
No one could have predicted this one. The Senators barely made it into the playoffs, finishing in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Devils finished far-and-away in first place in the East, nine points up on the second-place Penguins. The Devils had Martin Brodeur in net, while the Senators countered with Damian Rhodes. Thanks to Rhodes' goaltending, though, and some strong play from Alexei Yashin, the Senators upset the Devils in six games to move on to the second round.
3. Oct. 8, 1992: Senators defeat Montreal Canadiens 5-2 in franchise's first-ever game
Mostly here for sentimental reasons, the Senators had little going for them during their inaugural season. They finished with a 10-70-4 record, last place in the league with only 24 points. At the start of the season, though, the Senators must have been running on fumes, as they beat the Canadiens--who would be the eventual Stanley Cup champions--in the team's first-ever game. Neil Brady scored the first goal in Ottawa Senators history (one of nine goals he would score in his NHL career), and Sylvain Turgeon scored the eventual game winner. The win gave some hope that the team might do alright on the year, but that hope ended fairly quickly afterwards.
2. April 12, 1997: Senators defeat Sabres 1-0 to secure first playoff berth
The 1996-97 season was a turning point for the Ottawa Senators franchise, in which the Senators significantly improved their on-ice play under the tutelage of head coach Jacques Martin. They had a 36-point improvement over the previous year, and set themselves up for a win-and-your-in final game of the season against the Buffalo Sabres. With just minutes left in the game, Alexei Yashin broke into the Sabres' zone to set up Steve Duchesne, whose wrist shot got past Dominik Hasek to give Ottawa all they would need for a 1-0 victory (not to take anything away from Ron Tugnutt's impressive shutout victory). With the win, Ottawa notched seven victories in their final nine games, good enough to get them into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and into the playoffs.
1. May 19, 2007: Ottawa defeats Buffalo 3-2 in overtime to win first-ever Eastern Conference Championship
There is little that has to be said about this game, because it's so fresh in the minds of all Ottawa Senators fans. Just a year after being eliminated by the Sabres, the Senators were back facing off against them once again, but this year was to be different. Defeating the Sabres in offensive showdowns or defensive shutdowns, the Senators were up 3-1 in the series and looking to get to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time ever. The Sabres tied the game mid-way through the third to send it to overtime, but Daniel Alfredsson scored his fourth game-winning goal and second series-clinching goal of the 2007 playoffs in the first overtime frame to send the Senators on to face the Anaheim Ducks. It was, without a doubt, the greatest game in Ottawa Senators history. So far...
Have you got your own picks for the list? Feel free to post them in the comments section, for some lively debate.