Senators Jason Spezza, right, celebrates an empty-net goal with teammate Daniel Alfredsson. (CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)
After two scoreless periods, low-scoring defenceman Tom Preissing got a mildly disputed goal 4:46 into the third period to lift the Senators to a 2-0 NHL playoff victory over New Jersey on Monday night. Jason Spezza added an empty-net goal with 56 seconds left in the game.
The Senators lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-1, with Game 4 on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Place.
"Traditionally, you don't look at the Senators as a 1-0 or 2-0 team, but we played well tonight," Pressing said after the match.
And few expected Ottawa goalie Ray Emery to come out the better - no less with his second shutout of the playoffs - in a tight duel with future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.
The Senators outshot New Jersey 34-25, but Emery was especially sharp late in the second period when his defence went into a brief lapse and Zach Parise had a few good scoring chances.
"It felt pretty good," said Emery. "It was nerve-wracking when we're getting so many chances and the other guy's making those big saves.
"It's exciting playing against him, especially here in Canada, but it's a team game."
The winner came suddenly.
Mike Comrie banked a shot off the end boards on a rush that came to Preissing on the right wing for a high blast.
It beat Brodeur to the glove side - a vulnerable spot for him through much of these playoffs - but he looked off-balance because his skate was clipped by Ottawa's Mike Fisher as he passed in front of the crease.
Brodeur said he asked the officials for an explanation and was told he "had time to get out of the way.
"But then my teammates told a different story, so it was a bit frustrating."
Fisher said he didn't know until he watched a replay that he had touched Brodeur
"I guess I did clip him, but that's part of the game."
Coach Bryan Murray said Brodeur's foot was out of the crease and Fisher was directed toward him by a defenceman, so it was "accidental contact. They just happened to touch feet."
Either way, Preissing will take it.
"It's not a shot I thought would beat Marty, but when you throw the puck at the net, things happen," he said. "Brodeur was outstanding, so a goal in a 0-0 game is huge."
A game in which both teams played solid team defence gave the red and black-clad sellout crowd of 19,636 little to shake the red pompons they were handed at the door through the opening two periods.
Brodeur may have got a break on an early whistle when Jason Spezza pushed in a puck the goalie had trapped on the ice after stopping Daniel Alfredsson's backhand on a cruise through the crease 15:29 into the game.
But then Brodeur was at his best, robbing Alfredsson on a rebound during a power play at the start of the second frame and foiling Fisher and Mike Comrie on back-to-back shots late in the period.
Midway through the second, smart forechecking put the Senators' defence in a generous mood for a short spell and Emery needed to be sharp to stop a Parise blast from the slot, a Parise wrap-around attempt and another Parise chance when Joe Corvo put the puck on his stick in front of the Ottawa net.
Devils coach and general manager Lou Lamoriello had said at his meeting with the media Monday morning that "we are a low-scoring team. That is our philosophy," and his team played it to the letter, but didn't get the goal it needed to win.
"They played outstandingly with the lead," said New Jersey's Scott Gomez, the playoff scoring leader. "They were great.
"They came out strong and the puck kept bouncing their way."
Part of that was Ottawa's defence, with players getting in front of shots to preserve the lead.
"It's a team that's willing to pay the price, to play with discipline and block shots," added Murray. "We had so may blocked shots in the last period. You wouldn't have seen that last year."
The Preissing goal was scored with the Comrie, Fisher, and Peter Schaefer line on the ice, a first in the series for the Sens' No. 2 trio. They combined for eight shots.
"I though they were much better," said Murray. "Schaefer had his best game of the series, Comrie played hard and, while you know you'll get the effort from Fisher, he has to finish. So that was big for the whole team."
The Devils were 0-5 while Ottawa was 0-4 with the man advantage.
The crowd got excited when Antoine Vermette poked in the puck at the end of the first period, but a replay showed time had expired. The Devils scored with 0.2 of a second left in the second period of Game 2 and Ottawa claimed the New Jersey timekeeper started the clock late.
Notes - Devils' rookie John Oduya, who played in round one vs. Tampa Bay, has been scratched for all three games against Ottawa. . . Ottawa's Patrick Eaves, who left Game 3 of the first round against Pittsburgh after a hard hit to the head, has yet to return but is still listed as day-to-day. . . Brodeur is the all-time leader in wins against Ottawa with 28.