Still empty at the Bank

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Well, on this long holiday weekend, Senators fans will be saying to their team, "thanks for nothing."

While the effort was better, the Senators still dropped their second straight home game, this time 4-3 to the Buffalo Sabres last night to remain 0-fer-'06 at Scotiabank Place in front of a crowd of 19,202 mostly restless supporters.

The Sabres scored just 33 seconds into the game on another defensive breakdown, added a power-play goal in the last minute of the first, then hung on through a wild final five minutes to go to 3-0 on the season.

A reuniting of The Pizza Line in the final 10 minutes finally had the Senators looking like the team they can be, but it wound up being too little, too late.

With the Senators down 3-1 in the third after Buffalo's Chris Drury scored on another odd-man rush three minutes in, coach Bryan Murray reunited captain Daniel Alfredsson with centre Jason Spezza and winger Dany Heatley and Spezza responded with a pair of goals.

Only problem was Buffalo's Jason Pominville (him again?) scored what turned out to be the winner in between them to give the Sabres the victory.

"I think they just have to play and get over it," said Murray of his team's slow start to the season. "Handling this pressure should be good for them...and we have to get our best players scoring goals like they did in the third."

Spezza tipped home a Heatley shot (he had eight shots on the night, but was stymied by hot Sabres goaltender Martin Biron) to make it 3-2 at 15:22, but Pominville took advantage of more confusion down low on the part of the Sens -- a regular occurrence so far this season -- to make it 4-2 just over a minute later.

Spezza made it close again, slamming home a rebound of an Alfredsson shot just 10 seconds after Pominville's goal.

Murray said he will likely keep Alfredsson with Spezza and Heatley for the Senators' next game Thursday, when the Calgary Flames visit.

"The hard part is, I don't think the second line will be as consistent," said Murray of flipping Alfredsson with Patrick Eaves. "But we don't have any choice."

Spezza got his first two goals of the season after the reunion of the trio that seemed to score goals at will last year.

"When we're all skating and moving the puck, I think we can be the best line in the league," said Spezza. "When we get put together, it's going to be up to us to score a lot of the goals, but we're fine with that."

After last night's slow start, the Senators competed better than they did in Thursday night's 6-0 humiliation at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the home opener, but still suffered from too many mental mistakes, turnovers, penalties and missed opportunities. The Senators took four minor penalties in the first period, handing the Sabres the momentum.

Only Dean McAmmond was able to beat Biron through two periods, converting a crisp pass on a 2-on-1 from Denis Hamel for his first goal as a Senator and the club's first on home ice this season.

With no game until Thursday, Murray will now have time to work with his club on some fundamentals that were neglected in a ridiculously busy pre-season (nine exhibition games in 12 days).

The focus will be on special teams (the Senators were 0-for-8 on the power play last night and are just 1-for-19 on the season). That's a brutal stat for a team as offensively gifted as this one.

The defensive coverage could use some attention, too, as the Senators new defensive corps has struggled with new pairings.

"We're going to have some time to work on our systems," said Spezza. "And we showed signs in the last two periods of being the team we can be."

Now the trick is to do it for three.


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