Sens South Beached

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As players started changing addresses last night on the eve of the trade deadline, Senators fans must be wondering where their team went.

The Senators had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Florida Panthers, 6-2, at the BankAtlantic Center.

The Senators, beaten to loose pucks, losers of too many battles on the boards and woeful in the faceoff circle, spent much of the night watching or chasing the puck.

"It was just one of those games," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, "when we couldn't do anything right."

When they did get a chance, Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo showed why he's one of the best in the game.

Two saves stand out:

- With the game scoreless in the first and the Senators shorthanded, Ottawa's Antoine Vermette broke away. He skated in and was turned back by Luongo's blocker.

- After the Panthers had taken a 3-1 lead in the second, Ottawa's Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, its lethal duo, broke in on a 2-on-1. Spezza dished to Heatley, but his one-timer was stopped by Luongo, who exploded across the crease to get a pad on the shot.

"Very often that kind of save is the turning point," said Senators coach Bryan Murray, "and they took advantage."

LOOKED LIKE OLD NAGS

The Senators, who spent Tuesday at the horse farm of owner Eugene Melnyk, looked like nags last night.

"They looked like a team that stayed on the ranch," said Murray. "I don't know if it was the day off, too much sun or they just took it for granted."

The Senators were outmuscled by the Panthers, who went into the game 12 points out of the last playoff spot and looked determined.

They drove to the net hard last night as Ottawa's big line of Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson was eaten alive by Florida's Josef Stumpel, who scored on a pair of tip-ins, and linemates Olli Jokinen and Martin Gelinas. The Spezza line was a combined minus-8 and the defensive tandem of Zdeno Chara and Chris Phillips was minus-7.

"They were good, but they got some breaks, too," said Spezza. "(Stumpel's first) was a good tip, but kind of lucky to get it under the bar. The second one hit two skates.

"We know we're still a good hockey club and if we outwork teams we are going to win. We got outworked (last night)."

Gelinas scored 31 seconds into the third to make it 4-1.

The Senators were dominated in the faceoff circle by the Panthers (Florida won 67% in the first period) with the result the Senators were chasing the puck for much of the night.

Stumpel's second goal of the night, which made it 3-1, came off a faceoff win in the second period. He went to the net and tipped home a shot by defenceman Sean Hill at 7:20.

The Panthers were the team with more energy in the first period with much of the action taking place in the Senators' zone. The Panthers' buzzing culminated in Stumpel's eighth goal of the season with 66 seconds left in the first.

EMERY HUNG OUT TO DRY

Stumpel broke to the net and shrugged off the stick check of Chara, tipping home Jay Bouwmeester's sharp-angled shot.

That was part of the Senators' problem last night -- not enough presence in front of their own net.

Goaltender Ray Emery didn't have much chance on either of Stumpel's goals nor on Nathan Horton's, a killer that came on an odd-man break just 11 seconds after Ottawa's Peter Schaefer had tied the game with a career-high 17th goal of the season.

The Senators travel to Atlanta today where they will face the Thrashers tomorrow night.


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