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Sunday, May 18

Updated: May 18, 8:53 PM ET

Five truths about Game 5

By EJ Hradek
ESPN The Magazine

You won't hear the New Jersey Devils say the Ottawa Senators are done and they're looking forward to facing the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Stanley Cup finals.

You won't hear the Senators say that they're showing up to play Game 5 only because they have to.

Instead, those in the leading locker room repeatedly remind everyone that four wins are needed to advance, adding that the fourth game is the toughest to win. The players on the losing side talk about being better in the next game and having their backs against the wall.

Predictably, the Senators wasted little time in parroting those old clichés after falling into a 3-1 hole against the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals.

"It has got to be one shift at a time," said Senators center Todd White right on cue after Saturday's 5-2 loss in New Jersey.

Those kinds of truths are self-evident.

Here are five other truths about Monday's Game 5:

1. Senators goalie Patrick Lalime has to get his act together. The Devils, who have done their video homework on Lalime, have scored a number of questionable goals in the series. They've beaten Lalime everywhere -- over the shoulder, under the arms and on the short side. Not good. Ironically, in Lalime's best game -- Game 3 -- the Senators provided little help. Afterward, he called out his teammates. They responded, but he let them down with the worst effort of his postseason career. Would coach Jacques Martin dare start backup goalie Martin Prusek? The same strategy almost worked for Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella, when he replaced starter Nikolai Khabibulin with backup John Grahame in Game 5. The Lightning took the Devils to triple OT before succumbing, 1-0. Don't bet on Martin taking the same approach -- such a bold move would be out of character.

2. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson is in need of the Heimlich maneuver. He has been a non-factor since the playoffs started, scoring just two even-strength points in 15 games. Alfredsson turned in what might arguably be the worst performance of his career in Game 4. He didn't register a single shot on goal and took a pair of dumb penalties, both of which led to Devils' power-play goals, including the third-period game winner by Jeff Friesen. Also, Alfie mishandled a pass on the left point during a late power-play chance which led directly to John Madden's short-handed goal. It was an afternoon to forget.

3. Martin has to take advantage of the last change on home ice. He must to do whatever he can to get Marian Hossa away from John Madden, Jay Pandolfo and Scott Stevens. Hossa, the Senator' best player throughout the season, chalked up five goals and 12 points in the first two rounds. He has just one assist in four games against the Devils. It's Martin's job to get him into a more favorable matchup. Thus far, Martin has been outmaneuvered by Devils coach Pat Burns.

4. Sometimes, there's no explaining a hot streak. With that in mind, Jay Pandolfo should continue to shoot the puck. After scoring three goals in 80 previous career playoff games, he has three in his last four games against the Senators, which doesn't include the one he scored in Game 3 that didn't count due to an oversight by the league's video replay staff. Pandolfo, who is appreciated by his teammates because of his work ethic and unselfish play, has four goals and nine points in 14 playoff games.

5. The Devils are going to win this series, even if they lose Game 5, which is doubtful. The playoff-tested Devs are teaching the novice Senators another painful lesson about winning in the postseason. In the first two rounds, the Senators took advantage of a non-competitive team and a woefully inconsistent goaltender. To their credit, they were able to do so. In this round, however, their inability to put together a complete 60-minute effort has finally caught up with them. Championship teams learn from their experiences. Based on what has transpired in this series, the talented Senators aren't quite ready to graduate to the Cup finals.

E.J. Hradek writes hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com.
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