Too bad the NHL doesn't have a mercy rule. It would be a humane way of putting the Ottawa Senators out of the misery that this nightmare of a season has become for them.
And probably far less painful than the slow death being inflicted by a younger, more talented and far more determined Pittsburgh Penguins team that is providing pay back in spades for the schooling it endured during a first round loss to Ottawa last spring. Fortunately for the Senators, they won't have to go through this much longer after being thumped 4-1 in their own building Monday to fall behind three games to none in the series.
A couple of teams have come back to win after similar deficits -- the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 and the New York Islanders in 1975 -- but it takes a special kind of character to engineer such a major turnaround, the kind these Senators obviously don't have. It is a problem Ottawa has dealt with for much of the last decade, even if the Senators appeared to overcome it by getting to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time last spring and then starting this season with a 15-2 record.
Since then the Senators have imploded, narrowly avoiding one of the greatest collapses in league history because of internal distractions created by former starting goalie Ray Emery, a series of key injuries and ultimately the mid-season firing of coach John Paddock. Ottawa still managed to sneak into the playoffs through the back door, but judging by their uninspired effort in the first three games against the Penguins, they would have saved themselves a lot of heartache by falling short.
Ottawa needs to look no further than its latest loss to understand that. Despite an embarrassing pre-game introduction show, the Senators came out with some fire and had the visitors back on their heels for much of the first period, they just couldn't get on the board though because Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant. But the Senators did take the lead early in the second frame and that should have been signfiicant because scoring first has been a virtual guarantee of victory in these playoffs so far.
Not for the Senators though. Instead of feeding off rookie Nick Foligno's marker, Ottawa fizzled and let the Penguins take the game away. Pittsburgh tied the game five minutes later and then dominated the rest of the period before taking control with two goals before the third period was two minutes old. Adding insult to injury was the final tally by Marian Hossa, who was run out of Ottawa because he tended to disappear in the playoffs.
"We certainly played better when they scored the first goal, this is really where we started to pick up our game," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "We liked our position after the second period even if it was tied and we knew we could hurt them."
And with no need to show any mercy.