OTTAWA -- Defenseman Wade Redden recalls how poorly the Ottawa Senators faced adversity in previous postseasons.
"In the past, we'd play well, get lots of chances and wouldn't score, and then we'd get away from what we do," Redden said Tuesday after practice. "We'd panic, thinking that we've got to change something."
The only thing the Senators have changed this spring is their mentality - from panic to patience, from chaos to composure.
Sticking to a system that relies on stifling defense and opportunistic offense, the Senators lead Toronto 2-1 in their best-of-seven NHL Eastern Conference semifinal series, which resumes in Ottawa on Wednesday.
"I think we've realized that if we just keep plugging away, keep grinding, eventually something good is going to happen," Redden said.
It was a tough lesson for a team whose problem over the past six years wasn't making the playoffs - but advancing in them.
With Monday's 3-2 victory, the Senators won their sixth playoff game to set a franchise record for most in any postseason. Just as significant is that they lead the Maple Leafs, a team that knocked them out the past two years.
Not bad for a relatively faceless group of players, relying on a workmanlike effort and goaltender Patrick Lalime, a two-time NHL castoff who has a 0.78 goals-against average in eight games.
And then there's Daniel Alfredsson, the team captain and leading scorer, who emerged as a leader following last summer's trade of Alexei Yashin.
"Through adversity, hopefully, you learn something that's going to help you," Alfredsson said. "It's not easy losing. But as long as you realize what you did wrong, and try to improve, it's a step in the right direction."
The Senators have not wilted this spring.
They didn't in the first round against Philadelaphia, winning four straight after losing the series opener in overtime.
The Senators showed the same resiliency in Monday's victory, bouncing back from what could have been a morale-bursting 3-2 triple-overtime loss in Game 2.
"I think we're more composed," Alfredsson said. "We don't get too high when we win. We don't get too low when we lose."
It's the Maple Leafs who are trying to stay focused.
While the Leafs, the most penalized team in the playoffs, have stemmed their discipline problems the past two games, they're still guilty of trying to be too forceful on offense, which is costing them defensively.
All three Ottawa goals - including Alfredsson's eventual game-winner - in Game 3 came as a result of turnovers.
While the Leafs made a game of it, scoring twice in the final three minutes, their lackluster performance over the first 57 minutes did them in.
"We've got to be a team that finishes checks, and we're not doing it right now for whatever reason," coach Pat Quinn said. "When you try to force things in this game, especially against this type of team, that's the kind of game they can eat up a little bit."
The Leafs also resorted to complaining about the officiating, something that has become common after every loss.
This time, they were unhappy that Alfredsson's goal was allowed to stand. Toronto players accused Ottawa's Benoit Brunet of interfering with goalie Curtis Joseph, even though replays showed that Brunet hardly touched Joseph, and that he was pushed into the crease by Toronto's Robert Reichel.
Alfredsson said the Senators are accustomed to the Maple Leafs' complaints.
"We play them five times every year. It's nothing new," Alfredsson said. "It all comes down to playing hockey, and that's what we go out there and try to do."
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