Scotiabank Place crowds have played starring role these playoffs

When the meltdown occurred and the Ottawa Senators fell apart Wednesday night, an odd thing happened in the crowd.

Scotiabank Place crowds have played starring role these playoffs
Milan Michalek of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his first period goal against Tomas Vokoun and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, May 22, 2013. Photo by Jean Levac/OTTAWA CITIZEN

PITTSBURGH — When the meltdown occurred and the Ottawa Senators fell apart Wednesday night, an odd thing happened in the crowd.
The Scotiabank Place audience rose to its feet, turning the disaster below them into a celebration, of sorts, wildly waving the white towels which were meant to inspire the Senators to victory.
Perhaps it was a recognition of the inevitable.
The Band-Aid that Craig Anderson had placed over the deep wounds in the Senators roster had been ripped off. The Penguins saw the blood in the water and went in for the kill.
Sure, there’s a slim chance the Senators can deliver the game of their lives Friday in Pittsburgh to extend the series — Daniel Alfredsson’s remarkably candid post-game comments are dealt with elsewhere on these pages — but the Ottawa crowd also recognized that the unlikely run was on the verge of being over, that this might have been it for the Senators until September.
While defenceman Marc Methot said he was personally “embarrassed” by his and the team’s performance, he labelled the crowd reaction as “classy.”
It was, however, in keeping with the passion that has been displayed throughout the playoffs from a fan base which has been justifiably accused of being too relaxed, too reserved.
No question, the mood in the rink has been aided by the fact the Senators delivered two of the most unlikely comebacks. Twice, they’ve scored in the final minute of regulation with Anderson on the bench, following that up with overtime victories.
The “Pageau, Pageau, Pageau” chants which sprang up during the opening round against the Montreal Canadiens — in tribute to the ultimate underdog, Gatineau’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau and mocking the “Ole, Ole, Ole” chants of Canadiens faithful — have been spontaneous and have brought life to the arena.
Anderson has been toasted with “An-dee, An-dee” chants.
The mid-period countdown to the Alfredsson chants have become a staple at Scotiabank Place. If Alfredsson has played his final home game, the fans at least witnessed his 100th career playoff point.
There has been booing, too, with Matt Cooke receiving his share — for good reason.
In an odd way, the presence of Cooke serves as a reminder of how much the Senators have achieved, despite their injuries.
Erik Karlsson lost his chance for another Norris Trophy when Cooke’s skate sliced his Achilles. Anderson lost his shot at the Vezina Trophy when he missed six weeks with a sprained ankle. Jason Spezza lost his opportunity to carry the Senators offensively due to back disc surgery.
Considering all that, Senators fans have relished the role of cheering for the underdog and bought into the folksy words of their coach.
If Wednesday was the end at home for the Senators, at least the crowd went out in style.
Enjoy the season for what it is — or was. Come a healthy lineup next season, the expectations will be raised to the roof.

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