March 5, 2004
In a game that will go down in hockey history, the Ottawa Senators fell by a final score of 5-3.
After tensions had been rising for almost three full periods - and really, months and years before this - the Senators and Philadelphia Flyers waged an all-out war in the third period. All in all, there were 10 separate fights, 19 ejections, and a record 419 penalty minutes. The rivalry has been taken to another level.
With the tension palpable before the puck even dropped, the Senators got off to a good start. Just over four minutes in, Todd Simpson took a shot that was saved by Robert Esche, but Chris Neil crashed the net, and banged home his 8th of the year to make it 1-0.
However, this game - at least between the whistles - would belong to the Flyers, and they took control not long after Neil opened the scoring. At the 10:41 mark, Radovan Somik dropped the puck to Claude Lapointe, who took an innocent-looking shot from the side boards, but it beat Patrick Lalime to tie the game.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for Ottawa. 30 seconds later, Mark Recchi drove the net for a John Leclair rebound, and put it home to give his team the lead.
Just really poor defence by Ottawa. Karel Rachunek gave Leclair way too much space, and Brian Smolinski left Recchi all alone in front.
Coach Jacques Martin would call his timeout, in an attempt to calm his team and stop the bleeding, but to no avail. Not even five minutes after Recchi’s marker, a Danny Markov point shot bounced off of Neil and past Lalime, doubling the Flyer lead, and putting the Sens in an early hole.
As if getting lit up like a Times Square Christmas tree weren’t bad enough, the Sens were on the wrong end of the first instances of tensions beginning to boil over. Near the end of the frame, Tony Amonte threw a late, blindside hit on Smolinksi, hurting him. Simultaneously, Peter Schaefer was the recipient of a slewfoot in the corner, and was visibly shaken up.
Neither play was called for a penalty, and the Senators headed to the second down 3-1. Both men were able to continue.
For those of you eyeing a reversal of fortunes for Ottawa, I would dispel those with those hopes fairly quickly. With Mike Fisher in the box for tripping, Kim Johnsson let go a point shot that handcuffed Lalime, and extended the Flyers’ lead to 4-1.
As the game was seemingly growing further and further out of hand, and nearly 25 minutes after Lapointe tied the game, Ottawa finally returned fire. They were awarded a powerplay on a Somik slashing penalty, and Jason Spezza made a beautiful feed to Zdeno Chara, who let go a scorching slapshot to make it 4-2.
Any potential for an Ottawa rally was quickly quashed less than seven minutes into the final frame. Lalime made the save on an initial Simon Gagne shot, but didn’t hug the post, and Alexei Zhamnov chipped the rebound past him to restore the three-goal league.
The rest of the game proceeded relatively without incident, until the 18:15 mark, when a heavyweight tilt between Rob Ray and Donald Brashear broke out.
Brashear got the better of Ray, who was bloodied, but it was after the fight that all hell broke loose. Three years’ worth of bad blood finally boiled over as Todd Simpson went after Brashear, inciting a melee with everyone on the ice.
Esche entered the fray, and Patrick Lalime made his way down the ice to even the odds.
Shaun Van Allen and Bradko Radivojevic duked it out in the corner.
When the dust had settled; Simpson, Van Allen, Lalime, Brashear, Radivojevic, Markov, and Esche had all been ejected. As insane as the fracas was, these two were just getting started. Off the next faceoff, Chris Neil beat the brakes off of Somik, and Chara got his hands on Mattias Timander.
Needless to say, all four were sent to the showers. When the officials tried to drop the puck again, Mike Fisher and Michal Handzus squared off, with Fisher getting the better of him despite being at a size disadvantage,
Following that, we actually got a little over 20 seconds of hockey, before Wade Redden tackled John Leclair, and Smolinski paired off with Recchi.
Off the ensuing draw, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp were the next, and final contestants, to fill their dance cards.
Ottawa would be awarded a late powerplay, and with 13 seconds left, Peter Bondra potted a relatively meaningless goal to make it 5-3, and that’s how this contest would conclude.
The Senators lost 5-3, but on this night, the result almost seems secondary.
- What can you even say about a night like this? The Senators didn’t play well, but at least they responded when the gloves hit the ice. It’s something to build on.
- The Senators and Flyers broke an NHL record with 419 total penalty minutes. The “milestone” was previously held by the Boston Bruins and Minnesota North Stars, who brawled to 405PIMS on February 26, 1981.
- Perhaps most encouraging was the response by Ottawa’s younger players. Chris Neil, Mike Fisher, and Jason Spezza all answered the proverbial bell, with Fisher and Neil especially handling themselves well. While it’s not really possible to punch your way to a Stanley Cup these days, these guys showing some heart, and pissed-off-ness could bode well for the Senators’ future.
- Patrick Lalime didn’t have a great night, giving up five goals on 30 shots, but not all were his fault. The ones that were though...yikes.
- Apparently the officials needed more than 90mins after the game to sort out all the penalties.
- These two will meet one more time before the regular season’s conclusion, on April 2nd.
Sens’ Hero: Zdeno Chara (1G, 27PIMs)
Sens’ Zero: Patrick Lalime (25-30, 17PIMs)
Hardest Working Sen: Chris Neil (1G, 5PIMs)
Up Next: The Senators will have a quick turnaround, hosting the Nashville Predators at the Corel Centre tomorrow night.