10 greatest games by the Pizza Line
Nearly a decade has passed since Dany Heatley broke up the Ottawa Senators Pizza Line. But because the start of hockey season coincides with National Pizza Month, it is hard to forget this unit.
Following the 2004-05 lockout and a trade from Atlanta, Heatley teamed with Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. For the better part of four seasons, the three formed a bar-setting line in Senators history.
In the middle of its era, the Alfredsson-Heatley-Spezza combination led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup Final. Besides that, it acquired a nickname for its crucial role in frequently triggering a promotion with Pizza Pizza. The Canadian chan offered free slices to spectators at the Corel Centre/Scotiabank Place any time Ottawa scored five goals in a home game.
During that 2006-07 run that culminated in a Cup final berth, the criterion upgraded to six goals. In addition, for the postseason, Pizza Pizza tweaked the terms to merely require a game victory.
Naturally, the captain Alfredsson and his linemates were integral to those giveaways all the same. Throughout their time together, each third of the Pizza Line nearly doubled the point production of any other Senator.
The following games exemplified the line’s chemistry. Not all of them put the promotion into effect, but they did give Ottawa fans plenty to eat up emotionally.
Based on a game’s implications and the total scoring plays all three forwards shared credit for, these are the Pizza Line’s 10 most memorable performances. All statistics are according to Hockey Reference.
10. Oct. 27, 2008: Senators 5, Sabres 2
In a frenzied second period, the troika combined for seven points and quadrupled Ottawa’s lead to 4-0. Starting with a carry-over power play, Heatley converted his linemates’ combined setup for the 2-0 edge.
Four minutes and 29 seconds later, Spezza banked home Antoine Vermette’s feed. Back with his regular associates in the stanza’s 19th minute, he tallied his second unanswered strike. That one was co-assisted by Alfredsson and Heatley, though the first proved the game winner.
9. Nov. 10, 2005: Senators 5, Bruins 2
With the credited help of his linemates, Heatley bookended the scoring in his 14th Ottawa outing. He drew first blood 11 seconds into regulation, then finalized the outcome 11 seconds into the third period.
With the win, the Sens improved to 12-2-0 on the year. By season’s end, they had edged Carolina by a one-point margin (113-112) for first place in the Eastern Conference. It’s just too bad this five-goal outburst, the team’s seventh, happened on the road.
8. Nov. 10, 2006: Senators 6, Penguins 3
The Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin/Marc-Andre Fleury youth movement was still feeling its growing pains in Pittsburgh. With another two-goal outing by Heatley, the Senators stressed that reality in this visit to Mellon Arena.
Heatley and Spezza accounted for the goals that spotted 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the first period. After Andrej Meszaros gave Ottawa a 3-2 advantage, Alfredsson and Spezza set Wade Redden up to double it.
By the late stages of the third period, the two-goal edge had morphed to 5-3. But the game was not truly out of reach until Alfredsson and Spezza split the assist credit again, this time on Heatley’s dagger.
That closing statement ultimately set a tone for the first round of the playoffs. Upon tying the Pens for fourth place with 105 points, the Sens got home ice for their series. They made the most of it with a five-game ouster, their first step en route to the Cup final.
7. Nov. 26, 2005: Senators 4, Bruins 2
Without credited help from his linemates, Spezza restored a briefly lost Ottawa lead to 2-1 on a power play. Other than that, the entire Pizza Line tallied a point on every goal in this squeaker.
Spezza opened the scoring 34 seconds into the action. After his second first-minute goal in as many periods, he switched roles to playmaker. Working with Alfredsson, he set Heatley up for the eventual clincher on another man advantage.
For what became insurance early in the third, the captain had his turn putting a puck in the net. With the assists, Spezza and Heatley completed a four- and three-point night, respectively.
6. Nov. 2, 2005: Senators 10, Sabres 4
To start their second month together, the line took full credit on three scoring plays. Heatley converted Alfredsson and Spezza’s setups to spot Ottawa 1-0 and 3-0 leads. He later joined Spezza in helping the captain convert a power play for a 9-3 advantage.
Spezza also had a hand in Alfredsson’s previous strike, the team’s eighth on the night. Overall, Alfredsson finished with four goals and two assists on the night, Heatley with two goals and one assist and Spezza with four helpers.
5. Oct. 8, 2007: Senators 4, Devils 2
After a bittersweet finish to the previous playoffs, the Sens stormed out on a five-game win streak to start 2007-08. The fourth installment of that streak was the Pizza Line’s best collective performance during the southern neighbor’s National Pizza Month.
With a 1-0 advantage already at hand, Alfredsson and Spezza combined to feed Heatley for his fourth goal in as many games. After New Jersey cut the difference in the middle frame, the same two playmakers helped Redden restore the two-goal advantage.
Almost two minutes later, and with 12:31 left, Zach Parise pulled the Devils back within one. But in the final minute, with the 3-2 edge intact, the line got together for the insurance. Alfredsson finished a counterattack with an empty-net conversion, giving the unit eight points out of the team’s 12.
4. March 14, 2006: Senators 4, Lightning 3
Since the NHL had no 2004-05 season, Tampa Bay was technically the defending Stanley Cup champion. But by the homestretch of 2005-06, Ottawa was looking like a stronger contender going forward.
As it happened, five weeks after this matchup, the Sens and Bolts would meet again in the first round of the playoffs. If holding the top seed in the conference was not enough to empower Ottawa, the result of this game was a booster.
Setting up Chris Neil on an early power play, Heatley and Spezza put Ottawa on the board after initially trailing. By the third period, the Sens were facing another deficit, but had another power play.
Once again, Heatley and Spezza got the assists on a momentous equalizer, this time with Alfredsson finishing the play. The 3-3 deadlock held up until the final minute of regulation, when the entire Pizza Line perked up again. Alfredsson secured the playmaker hat trick for his two linemates and clinched the dramatic victory with seven seconds left.
3. May 5, 2007: Senators 3, Devils 2
For the first time since 2003, Spezza’s rookie year, the Senators were on the cusp of the Eastern Conference final. Moreover, they could reach it by eliminating the team that had ended their last journey there.
On the road for Game 5, Ottawa trailed at the first intermission after surrendering Scott Gomez’s goal. But after Antoine Vermette pulled the Sens even, the Pizza Line stepped up to make the difference.
On a second-period power play, Alfredsson and Heatley set Spezza up for the team’s first lead on the night. Five minutes and 22 seconds later, at even strength, Spezza and Heatley assisted Alfredsson.
The first of the two unanswered full-line scoring plays failed to hold up as the clincher. But the second would sustain that status, as Ottawa secured a 3-2 victory to close the series.
2. Feb. 9, 2008: Senators 6, Canadiens 1
By the winter of 2008, the balance of power in the Eastern Conference was decidedly shifting. At the end of February, the reigning Stanley Cup finalists would fire head coach John Paddock.
Under general manager Bryan Murray, Ottawa would barely hang on to a playoff spot, finishing two points above ninth place. Meanwhile, Montreal took the top seed, Pittsburgh the second. With that bracket, the Pens eliminated the Sens in the first round en route to the Prince of Wales Trophy.
But for at least one more night, the Pizza Line represented the team in its glorious, not-so-old form. At least one member of the line had a hand in all six of Ottawa’s scoring plays. Spezza tallied first 22 seconds in, then joined Joe Corvo in setting up Alfredsson for the team’s third unanswered goal in the first 4:45 of the game.
For the other six goals, all three linemates got credit for collaborating. The 6-1 result was Montreal’s most lopsided loss in its first-place season.
1. May 19, 2007: Senators 3, Sabres 2 (OT)
Appropriately, Ottawa basked in the conference crown after the Pizza Line had its most visible impact on any playoff game. The three linemates split the credit on the three goals. Heatley had a hand in all three plays, while Alfredsson and Spezza added a helper apiece.
After surrendering the first tally, Ottawa trailed for 11 minutes and 11 seconds. Then with 4:19 left in the middle frame, Heatley converted Spezza’s setup to get the Sens on board. In the final minute of the period, both Heatley and Alfredsson arranged Spezza’s go-ahead tally.
Buffalo’s Maxim Afinogenov would force overtime with a third-period power-play conversion. But at 9:32 of the extra period, Heatley absorbed Spezza’s pass and fed the captain for the clincher.
The modern Senators have not secured a 12th win in a single playoff run before or since.