Whacked in Windy City

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Suddenly, the Senators are singing the third-period blues.

For the second consecutive game, they choked on a lead in the final 20 minutes before falling 4-3 in the shootout. This time, they salvaged a point, but against the 27th team in the NHL, you'd expect more.

So did they.

"We certainly felt like we'd get a win out of this one," said coach Bryan Murray, who had cautioned the Senators against taking the Blackhawks too lightly.

"Maybe that was the point."

After blowing a 2-1 third-period advantage in Atlanta on Friday, the Senators allowed the lowest-scoring team in the NHL to climb back from a 3-1 deficit in the final 16:04.

After tying the game with his second of the afternoon 1:59 from the third-period buzzer, Radim Vrbata won it for the 'Hawks in a shootout that required a fourth round.

"I think we're getting a little too relaxed playing with the lead," said Wade Redden, whose team is now 28-5-2 when ahead after two periods. "It seems like we're not real hard on the puck when we should be and it's costing us.

"In the second period we controlled the play, but in the third it seemed like we didn't want to do that. It's like we were trying to let the clock run out. You can't do that against anybody in this league."

The loss snapped a string of seven consecutive wins for Gerber, who stopped 22-of-25 shots. It also allowed Pittsburgh to creep to within one point of Ottawa for fourth in the conference.

When Chicago's Rene Bourque knocked Gerber on his butt behind the Ottawa net late in the third, Andrej Meszaros dropped his gloves and wrestled with Bourque. Both players received minor penalties and the 'Hawks took advantage of the extra ice to score on the 4-on-4.

"I think the game was decided when they ran into our goalie," said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson. "Mez decides to go after him and it was the right thing ... you can say he shouldn't have done it and we would have won the game, but to stand up for our goalie, I totally believe he did the right thing."

DEKED OUT

While Vrbata and Jeff Hamilton beat Gerber with dekes in the shootout, only Dany Heatley scored for Ottawa. Jason Spezza hit the crossbar and Alfredsson shot wide, while Antoine Vermette was stopped by Patrick Lalime.

Facing the Senators for the first time since tending their goal from 2000-2004, Lalime made 30 saves for the win.

"It feels great to get this one," he said. "I had it circled on my calendar for awhile."

Having recently returned to action after back-to-back surgeries (knee, back) kept him mostly in obscurity the past year, St. Patrick entered the game with some nice details (1.99 GAA and .932 save percentage) to go along with the 1-3 won-loss record, even though he had allowed four goals on 18 shots before being pulled halfway through Friday's 6-2 loss to Detroit.

Lalime was so sharp early he forced officials to do a double-take. As Chris Neil was backhanding a rebound off the end boards into the open side, Lalime dived back to get his paddle on the puck at the goal line.

Replay verified it was not a goal.

Lalime also made a nice save off a Mike Fisher rush in the first and a follow-up chance by Peter Schaefer.

Playing his first game against his old team was former Senators star Martin Havlat, whose movements seemed to hypnotize a couple of his ex-mates as he set up a Vrbata goal to give Chicago the initial lead in the first.

Oleg Saprykin scored his first as a Senator five minutes later, then Ottawa put up the only two goals of the second. An Alfredsson power-play tally was his 23rd of the season and a deflected point shot by Vermette was his 17th, snapping a 14-game goal-less drought for the winger.

"We want to get these points badly, we know how important they are," said Vermette. "Facing a team out of the playoffs, it should be two points for us."


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