ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Over the next couple of days, the Ottawa Senators will tell themselves and anyone else who will listen that this series is not over.
They'll point to the success they've had in their own building, highlight the fact that both their losses have been by only one goal, and offer reminders that every team needs to go through adversity at some point in order to claim the game's ultimate prize.
|The Senators are looking for answers as they head home for Games 3 and 4. (AP)|
In fact the only place this series has been close has been on the scoreboard, which in Ottawa's case says a lot more about their goaltender Ray Emery's performance than it does about the team's overall play. The Senators have been badly outshot -- 31 to 16 in a 1-0 Game 2 loss -- outhit, dominated in the faceoff circle and beaten to loose pucks at both ends of the ice.
They weren't as guilty of as many bad turnovers and mental mistakes in Game 2 as they were in the opener, but Sammy Pahlsson's game winner with less than six minutes remaining was the result of Dany Heatley losing the puck in the neutral zone and captain Daniel Alfredsson failing to pick up Anaheim's hard-charging forward as he streaked into Ottawa's zone. In other words, there really is not much in the way of positives for the Senators to take out of their trip to California.
"There's no reason to panic," insisted Senators defenseman Joe Corvo. "Maybe we do need to show a little more consistency and focus and maybe a little more poise, but these are games of inches that we can easily turn around."
Certainly that looked possible at the outset of the game because the Senators came out ferociously and seemed determined to put the clunker they produced in the opener far behind them. The game plan was to be far more aggressive than cute, and to dump, chase and create pressure on the Ducks defensemen deep in the offensive zone.
Mike Fisher tried to set that tone for Ottawa off the opening faceoff when he fired the puck in deep and then crunched Scott Niedermayer as the Ducks captain tried to retrieve, one of several bruising hits the Senators delivered to a somewhat stunned Anaheim team in the early going. Problem was the physical play didn't create any scoring chances for Ottawa, but for the Ducks, who had the best opportunity in the opening minutes with a three-on-two rush that failed because Emery made a big save on Teemu Selanne.
"We needed to receive a few hits to get ourselves in the game," Anaheim forward Ryan Getzlaf said.
The Ducks did, and from then on Anaheim took control. By the 10-minute mark the Ducks had a 10-1 advantage on shots on goal, before again succumbing to the penalty trouble that has plagued them throughout the playoffs. Anaheim had two men in the penalty box for 67 seconds after the 12-minute mark, but Ottawa's best chance to seize control went down in a flurry of shots that made Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere look spectacular.
"We were pretty fortunate to get out of it with no goal," Giguere said. "I hadn't had many shots at that point, and I wanted to make sure I would approach it with a lot of energy, as good as I could. I was able to make the first save and the guys were on the rebound right away, but we have to stop going down five-on-three. It's going to end up costing us eventually."
Not necessarily in this series though. The Senators were unable to capitalize on a two-man power play in the opener that could have put away a game they were leading, and failing to connect again this time seemed to sap all the energy they had at the outset of Game 2.
Anaheim started pressing as the first period wound down and then nearly ran the Senators out of the building in the second period. Emery kept his team alive but Ottawa again failed to create any offense, despite coach Bryan Murray's attempt to get his top line away from Pahlsson's great checking unit by moving Alfredsson off the top line with Heatley and Jason Spezza several times.
Still Ottawa's No. 1 unit did play the majority of its shifts together, but for the second consecutive game, did not make anywhere near the kind of critical impact it did in the first three rounds. More than anything, that's the reason Ottawa is in the situation it is now.
"When your top players don't score," Murray said before trailing off. "We're counting on a couple of guys to be big-time players for us. They played better tonight but they didn't create much in the way of offense. I'm concerned."
As he should be.