Sens hit the skids

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:07 PM ET

Sabres 6

Senators 2

Like the Carolina Hurricanes, the truth has caught up to the Ottawa Senators.

That truth is this: They can't keep playing without the talent they've missed the last few weeks and expect to be the dominating club they were for most of this season.

The Senators lost their third game in a row for the first time time this season, not even coming close in their 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place last night.

It was also the first time they've lost two games in a row at home this season.

"We tried to make the simple plays, which is what we have to do right now, but we didn't do it too, too often," said Senators centre Jason Spezza, who assisted on the Ottawa goals by Patrick Eaves and Daniel Alfredsson, but also had a glaring turnover that led to Buffalo's fifth goal, drawing a rebuke from Alfredsson.

"We're not playing our best hockey right now. It's never good to lose hockey games, but maybe this will be a wakeup call for the playoffs."

It's pretty remarkable that it took this long for the Senators to lose three games in a row. It took until Game 77 of the 82-game regular season for it to happen and only after they had suffered injuries that have seen them playing without top goaltender Dominik Hasek, top three defencemen Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden and Chris Phillips, and forward Martin Havlat.

What's also remarkable is the Senators lost two games in a row only four other times this season, a credit to their remarkable consistency and high level of play.

"Everything caught up with us tonight. Nobody was going to rally the troops tonight. We're giving up more goals and chances than we did all year," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "It's disappointing because our stats were so good. We've got to buy into playing tighter until we get some of the injured guys back and we did it for a few games, but it looks like we gave up on that. We've been playing from behind and that's difficult to do."

"We're going to snap out of it," said Spezza. "It's not something we're in for the long haul. We've just got too good a hockey team here."

Well, when it's healthy. The good news yesterday was the Senators had defenceman Anton Volchenkov back in the lineup last night after missing a couple of games with a stiff neck.

The news was also encouraging in the case of the aforementioned injured stars. Hasek skated with equipment and faced a few shots yesterday morning for the first time in seven weeks as he recovers from a strained adductor muscle and both Phillips (knee) and Chara (hand) skated as well.

Havlat looks to be on schedule to return as early as Tuesday when the Senators host the Boston Bruins.

The other good news was the Hurricanes, with whom the Senators are battling for top spot in the Eastern Conference, lost 5-2 to the Atlanta Thrashers.

STILL TIED FOR LEAD

That allowed the Senators to remain tied with the 'Canes atop the East with 108 points with the Senators holding a game in hand.

Eleven different Sabres joined in the scoring last night with Tim Connolly (two goals and an assist), Chris Drury (goal and assist), Taylor Pyatt (goal and assist), Tomas Vanek (two assists) and Maxim Afinogenov (two assists) leading the way.

A goal by Sabres defenceman Jay McKee at 6:19 of the second period to make it 4-1 chased goaltender Ray Emery, who was making his 21st-straight start, from the Ottawa net, but it was hardly his fault.

Emery, who's been bothered by a sore hip the last couple of weeks or so, was replaced by Mike Morrison.

The Senators are in Montreal to face the Canadiens tomorrow night.

CHRIS.STEVENSON@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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