WASHINGTON -- Martin Gerber smashed his stick over the back of the net in total frustration.
It told the story of the Senators' night -- again.
Just when it looked like they might be coming together, the Senators came apart at the seams last night, blowing a 3-0 lead in a horrible 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
Chris Clark scored at 1:33 of OT after Alexander Ovechkin's second goal of the game with 24 seconds left in the third -- with defenceman Chris Phillips in the penalty box -- forced the extra period.
The result was Ottawa's fourth straight loss.
"I just can't believe what is happening right now," said a frustrated Phillips afterward, terming the penalty "a tough call at that point of the game."
After grabbing an early 3-0 lead in a 10:20 span of the first period on goals by Daniel Alfredsson, Antoine Vermette and Dany Heatley, the Senators chased Washington starter Olaf Kolzig. But by the end, they looked like a team hanging on for dear life as the young Caps mounted a charge.
"We were really in control of that game and then we just let it get away," said coach Bryan Murray. "I don't know what happened. In that third period, we just kind forgot about trying to score and tried to defend the lead.
"It's really tough for us right now. We're not scoring enough goals and we're not playing as well defensively as we can, either. We give up a two-goal lead (Saturday) and three-goal lead (last night). You can't do those sorts of things ... We just have to find a way (to finish)."
The Senators are still wanting in that area and it didn't help that they took a couple of bad penalties that resulted in goals by Ovechkin and Matt Pettinger that cut Ottawa's lead to 3-2 after 40 minutes.
Gerber, who now has a 2-6 record, wasn't scheduled to start, but Murray pulled a switch after the morning skate and kept original planned starter Ray Emery on the bench.
It didn't look like goaltending was going to be a factor, but it was in the end. Pettinger's goal (which came with Christoph Schubert in the box) and Ovechkin's at the end of a power play with Heatley in the box both came on tip-ins.
But with the way the Senators are playing right now, Gerber or Emery can't afford to give up anything. Gerber had to come up with some big stops, particularly in the second, as Ottawa was back on its heels.
"(We were) playing well as a team and controlling the game, then Schubert gets a penalty and that changes the whole momentum," said Alfredsson.
"We just aren't able to handle it when the momentum changes. (The Capitals) got all the momentum and ... I think some of the young guys we've got on this team are having a tough time right now (with confidence). We'd love to be able to play for 60 minutes, but it's just not happening."
Kolzig hardly had a chance to break a sweat before being pulled by coach Glen Hanlon. After surrendering the third goal on five shots at 11:51 of the first, Kolzig was replaced by backup Brent Johnson, who made big stops in the second.
It was Heatley's eighth of the season that ended Kolzig's night. Following a giveaway in the Washington zone, Heatley fired it through Kolzig's legs to give the Senators a 3-0 lead.
The second goal by Vermette was the result of a great pass through the middle of the ice by Alfredsson and a solid individual effort to beat Kolzig with a shifty move on a backhander at 10:25.
Alfredsson tried to set the tone early. He opened the scoring by going to the net with Jason Spezza faking the shot and then throwing a pass into the circle, where the captain blasted it home at 1:31 of the first.
This trip doesn't get any easier for the Senators. The club flew to Atlanta immediately after the game and will face the high-flying Thrashers tomorrow night at Philips Arena.