Friday, April 02, 2004

Best Behavior

The Dogs of War, Hockey style were called off Friday, Philadelphia and Ottawa both relied on hockey rather than fistic skills to finish off their final meeting of the regular season. Despite a number of big hits, things did not degenerate to the state of the last time the two got together. On March 5th the two teams combined for over 400 minutes in penalties, Friday night only 12 minutes of penalties were called. Perhaps the presence of Colin Campbell in the stands served as reminder that the atmosphere for on ice incidents has changed since Todd Bertuzzi did his number on Steve Moore earlier this month. But in the end it was the importance of the two points up for grabs that dictated the flow of the game.

Both teams were focusing on this game as a good barometer as to where their teams were heading into the playoffs. With Ottawa coming up with the 3-1 win, it’s Fair skies in Ottawa, Stormy in Philly. Martin Prusek redeemed himself in the Sens nets, making many point blank saves in the final period to keep Philly from making a comeback. Prusek set aside 39 of the 40 Flyer shots fired at him. At the other end of the rink Robert Esche had yet another shaky game, giving up 3 goals on only 19 shots. For Eshce the end of the season has been a nightmare, allowing 10 goals in his last three starts. Giving Ken Hitchcock a decision to make come playoff time, whether to start Esche or Sean Burke, regardless the Flyers are right back where they were last year heading into the playoffs, wondering about their goaltending.

Zdeno Chara, Antoine Vermette and Peter Bondra scored for Ottawa, Michal Handzus replied with the only Flyer goal. The win ties Ottawa with Boston for first place in the North East, Boston has two games remaining, the Sens just one that against arch foe Toronto on Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada. The Leafs kept the pace with a win over Buffalo Friday, setting the stage for a winner take all game in Ottawa. Home ice and positioning hangs in the balance, it should be playoff style hockey just before the playoffs begin.

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