THE smoke cleared and the mirror cracked last night for the Senators.
The 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens was bad enough, but a small cloud may have also formed around goalie Ray Emery.
"I had some funny stuff going on with my hip," said Emery, who had trouble getting up after a scramble in the second period and spent the rest of the night favouring his right leg.
"Last week it got a bit stiff, but I'm sure half the team has got aches and pains they're dealing with."
When asked if he would be good to go tomorrow against Buffalo, Emery replied: "Yeah, for sure."
With starter Dominik Hasek out for the last six weeks with a strained adductor muscle and apparently not ready to return any time soon, an injury to Emery, who has been brilliant, would be a colossal blow.
"Ray looked like he was hurting a bit. He was stretching after every whistle," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "We'll give him (today) off and see how he is after that."
After using smoke and mirrors to somehow stay competitive without their top three defencemen for the last four games, the Senators couldn't handle the sizzling Canadiens, who reeled off their eighth straight victory -- their longest winning streak since 1992.
"(The injuries) caught up to us," said Murray. "With all the minutes (rookie Andrej Meszaros) has played ... in the third he looked tired. They made some good plays around our 'D' and we had a turnover or two, one that cost us a goal."
The bright spot for the Senators was the two goals scored by Dany Heatley, his 46th and 47th of the season, giving him a new club record (surpassing Marian Hossa's record of 45). He also set the team record for most points in a season with 95.
"Everybody is going through the same thing," said Heatley of the injuries. "The way the schedule is, it's tough down the stretch."
The Canadiens rode the hot stick of rookie Chris Higgins, who had his eighth goal in eight games and his 14th in the last 20. David Aebischer got the win for Monteal, giving red-hot Cristobal Huet a break.
The Canadiens also got some revenge for their 3-0 loss at the hands of the Senators here Jan. 30 after which they were ridiculed by Hasek for taking just 12 shots.
The Senators play three games in four days, beginning tomorrow night at home against Buffalo.