Senators losing it

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

It remains the ugly pimple on their face, the dead grass on their front lawn, the dent in their Porsche.

No matter how good the Senators have looked at times during Bryan Murray's year and a bit behind the bench, they've never been without one particularly disturbing blemish -- their record in one-goal games.

Last season, while compiling a conference-leading 52-21-9 mark, they were a weak 10-15 in games decided by a single, lamp-lighting shot.

In the playoffs, they lost 5-of-7 one-goal games, including 4-of-5 in a swan-song series with Buffalo.

The Senators are picking up right where they dropped off. After Saturday's 2-1 loss in Boston, they are now 1-4 this season in games decided by a single goal.

"We didn't shut down," coach Dave Lewis later said of his Bruins. "The playoffs are a long way away, but you have to win games like that to win in the playoffs."

If the Senators don't soon learn how, they're destined for another early end to their season. A combined 13-24 record in one-goal games since October, 2005 is not a statistical oddity. It's a character flaw.

And by being unable to bear down and get the job done in a close contest, the Senators are showing just how little of it they have.

Jotting down notes on the flight home from Boston yesterday morning, Murray recognized the shortcoming as "one of the areas we have to meet and talk about."

"It comes down to effort, the goalie making saves, taking advantage of situations that might crop up," he said. "It's not as much about one-goal games as situations that come up in close games. In the Calgary game (a 1-0 loss), in the Boston game, certain things happened when the game was on the line, and we didn't find a way to score."

Against the Bruins, it was a 5-on-3 power play for 1:22 midway through the third period. The Senators had scored on a two-man advantage in the second by keeping things simple. The point men worked the puck low to Jason Spezza, who relayed a goal-mouth pass that was converted by Dany Heatley. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.

But with a similar opportunity and the game tied 1-1, they tried to get too cute.

"We made three bad passes trying to hit a home run, rather than play like that little guy in St. Louis (World Series MVP David Eckstein)," said Murray. "You make the simple play and you force the other team to counter. We didn't do that. I think that's just being impatient."

LIKE GERRY CHEEVERS

The Senators didn't have an overabundance of scoring chances in the tight-checking, playoff-style game, but they managed to make Tim Thomas look like Gerry Cheevers when they did.

And while Zdeno Chara's winner was scored with Chris Neil in the box on a chintzy, your-turn-to-get-one interference call, the Senators simply handed the Bruins their first goal.

Bad ice was likely a factor in Tom Preissing losing the puck just before P.J. Axelsson scored on a breakaway. But in protecting a one-goal lead with less than 13 minutes left, Christoph Schubert shouldn't have been passing it back to a guy inside his blue line in the first place.

"We try to emphasize getting the puck going (forward), get it out quick," said Murray. "Don't give teams a second and third chance. On the previous shift they did it, too. Unfortunately, that play cost us a goal.

"It's one thing to lose in the third period, after we take that penalty, but we had a 5-on-3 we and we didn't take advantage of it. We blew the opportunity."

The Senators are right back at it tomorrow night in Montreal. It could very well be another close game and, if so, another opportunity for them to show some character and do something about that damn pimple.


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