MONTREAL -- When does the futility of the Senators' power play go from merely annoyingly incompetent to frustratingly inept for the club?
Actually, it was sometime in the second period of last night's 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
There are moments when a game sits there for the taking.
They are often little things that allow a team to wrap their arms around the game in those moments and right now ... the Senators just aren't doing them.
Their power play stunk again last night in their loss to the Canadiens, suffocated, outworked and out-thought by a Habs penalty-killing unit that played like wild dogs.
Montreal's Christopher Higgins, who just might be the best penalty killer in the NHL right now, scored a shorthanded goal and after the Senators blew another 5-on-3 power play in the second,
Montreal's Alexei Kovalev made it 2-0.
Talk about a momentum shifter.
The Senators have now given up four shorthanded goals -- the most in the league -- and scored just six on the power play, leaving them at an anemic +2 on special teams.
When asked if they were being outworked, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said, "it's (about) playing smarter. I think we're working hard, but not doing the smart thing.
"It seems whenever we make a mistake, it bites us in the ass."
Don't look now, but the Senators are a game under .500 (5-6) and just three points out of last place in the Eastern Conference.
Down 1-0 after the Higgins goal, the Senators were handed a 56-second 5-on-3, the second-straight game where that kind of opportunity presented itself to change the direction of a game.
They had the same kind of chance against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
The Senators managed just two shots this time, losing a couple of battles and allowing the Habs to twice ice the puck.
Less than a minute after the second penalty ended, Montreal's Alexander Perezhogin pushed Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips off the puck in the corner, Sergei Samsonov jumped on it and snapped a pass to Kovalev breaking for the net.
He was alone to tap it in by Senators goaltender Ray Emery, giving the Habs' new all-Russian line three goals in a little more than two periods.
The Habs went into the game with the league's second-ranked penalty-killing unit and showed why as they not only killed off the first four minors they took, but took the lead Higgins' third shorthanded goal of the season at 5:30 of the second period.
It was also his second shorthanded goal of the season against the Senators.
Not only does Higgins defend well using his speed to pressure in his own zone, but he is ready to leap on the offensive if the smallest opportunity presents itself.
Such was the case in the second during a hooking penalty to Perezhogin. Jason Spezza turned the puck over just outside the Montreal blue line and the play quickly turned back.
Higgins got around Ottawa defenceman Joe Corvo and shoveled a backhanded through the leg of Emery.
Higgins almost potted another one on the same shift.
Spezza made it 2-1 at 6:19 of the third when his wrister hit Montreal defenceman Janne Niinimaa and deflected by Canadiens goaltender David Aebischer.
The Senators had a great chance to tie it with about seven minutes to go when Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson set up Dean McAmmond on Aebischer's doorstep, but he slid over the stop the shot.
Andrei Markov iced it for the Habs with 1:16 to play, burying a shot into an empty Senators net.
Then, with Emery back between the pipes, Steve Begin added further insurance at 19:03.
Tom Preissing closed out the scoring for Ottawa with nine ticks left on the clock.
The Senators will have another few days to try and sort out their power-play troubles before they host the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday.
"We've got a lot of games left to play," said Spezza.
"We've got to figure this out."