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Do or die for Devils, Senators

May 23, 2003 at 12:13 PM   |   Comments

OTTAWA, May 23 (UPI) -- The Ottawa Senators can make rallying from a three games to one deficit seem almost commonplace Friday night in Game Seven against the New Jersey Devils.

The Senators have twice have staved off elimination against the Devils this week, setting up a sudden death showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The contest will be played at the Corel Centre.

Marian Hossa set up two goals, including the game-winner by defenseman Chris Phillips 15:51 into overtime, as the Senators forced a Game Seven with a 2-1 victory in New Jersey on Wednesday.

Ottawa can become just the 20th time in NHL history to rally from a three games to one deficit, but the fourth this spring. The Vancouver Canucks did against St. Louis in the quarterfinals, and Minnesota did it against both Colorado and Vancouver in the first two rounds.

The only team to accomplish that feat in the conference finals was New Jersey, which beat Philadelphia Flyers on the way to their 2000 Stanley Cup victory.

The Senators labored all season to have the best record in the conference, and hope that the home-ice advantage pays off on Friday.

"You want to have that seventh game here," said Ottawa Coach Jacques Martin. "We have the luxury of having our fans, the noise, the support, the energy. That's a big, big thing."

New Jersey, unbeaten in its previous eight home playoff games, had another chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in four years after dropping a 3-1 decision in Ottawa on Monday, but the Senators had other plans, improving to 4-0 in overtime during the postseason on Phillips' tally.

"We're playing much smarter because we haven't been running around as much the last couple of games," Hossa said. "We are certainly happy to be playing Game Seven at home."

Goalless in his previous eight games and virtually a non-factor in this series, Hossa clearly was the best player on the ice Wednesday, generating numerous scoring chances while leading the Senators with seven shots on goal.

"We like our odds going back home, but we know we are going to have to be better and there's no way around it," said Ottawa superstar and team captain Daniel Alfredsson. "They are a veteran team that's going to come to Ottawa and play their best."

"Game Seven, it's one game takes all," said New Jersey defenseman Ken Daneyko. "It's only fitting the two best teams in the East are going to battle to get to the Stanley Cup Finals."

New Jersey's task could be made difficult if Joe Nieuwendyk can't play. The star center scored the Devils' lone goal, but suffered a leg injury had to be helped off the ice after the game.

Ottawa can become the first team from Canada to appear in the Stanley Cup Finals since Vancouver in 1994.

The winner of Friday's showdown finally will host Anaheim in Game One of the Finals on Tuesday.

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