Only one goal in mind

Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek holds down San Jose Sharks' Nils Ekman last night at the Corel...

Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek holds down San Jose Sharks' Nils Ekman last night at the Corel Centre. (SUN/Tony Caldwell)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:05 PM ET

EDMONTON -- Senators coach Bryan Murray says the solution to winning the close games is simple.

"(Dominik Hasek) just can't allow any goals against," Murray joked yesterday.

But Hasek says the Senators have a lot to learn if they're going to win a Stanley Cup this season. And one of their biggest lessons is winning the close ones.

As the Senators prepare to open this two-game Western road swing tonight against the Oilers at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Hasek isn't happy with the club's record in one-goal games.

"What we need to do is start getting ready for the playoffs," Hasek said following a light workout yesterday at Scotiabank Place (the old Corel Centre) before a late flight here. "We have to be a team that is successful in those one-goal games because you're not going to win 5-1 and 6-2 in the playoffs.

"Sure, you might have one game in a playoff series where you blow out a team by four or five goals, but that's not going to happen all the time. You have to have to win these one-goal games to have success or to win a Stanley Cup."

Hasek's point is well taken by everybody in the Ottawa camp. The sense of urgency in the club's game seems high when the Senators get down a goal and it doesn't take long for them to get away from the game plan.

Murray has noticed it, too. The club is 5-6 in games decided by a goal this season. That means two-thirds of the nine they've lost through 42 games have been in tight contests.

"It seems to me that in those situations we become impatient and get away from playing our game when we get down by a goal," said Murray.

"I said to the guys between the second and third period (of Thursday's 2-0 loss to the Sharks) that I wanted to see them win the battles in the offensive zone and show some patience. It's going to get hard when we get into these tight games. I asked the guys, 'What would you do to beat the Ottawa Senators?' You'd clog up the middle just like the Sharks did and we have to be prepared to compete against that."

Hey, you can't blame the Senators if they're blowing out opponents. That's the sign of a good team, but the players know games are only going to get tighter -- especially once teams return from the Olympic break.

What's interesting about this complaint is who it's coming from: A hall-of-fame candidate like Hasek. The Senators have always made their goalies look good because they play well in front of them. In this case, Hasek has saved their bacon when there have been breakdowns, but that can't happen every night because nobody is perfect.

"I really don't have answers for why this happening. I don't know. I can't tell you," said Hasek. "We have to work hard and we have to do a better job for 60 minutes -- especially in the tight games. That includes me. I have to play better as well. But, as a team, we have to find a way to win those games."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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