Gerb your enthusiasm

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

As Martin Gerber walked down the hallway toward the dressing room midway through the second period, he slammed his stick and broke it in frustration.

That summed up this night.

The Senators are now officially in a slump after losing their third straight -- their fourth defeat in five games -- 4-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers in front of 20,128 spectators at Scotiabank Place.

Playing without captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was sidelined with a groin injury, the Senators got goals from Wade Redden, Dany Heatley and Christoph Schubert. But they were no match for the Flyers after being outplayed and outshot 41-29.

"We still have the best record in the league last I checked," said Senators coach John Paddock. "There are 29 teams in the league that would like to switch records with us last I checked. We just have to play better."

The scene got ugly midway through the second as the Senators gave up the lead for the third straight time. Paddock gave Gerber the hook after the Flyers tied it 3-3 on their 25th shot of the game. The fans booed loudly as Ray Emery skated toward the net.

It was the first time in 69 regular-season games -- since Dec. 19 last year -- the Senators have changed their goaltender mid-game.

It's tough to blame Gerber, but he has to make the big stops when needed and this performance will raise some questions.

"I didn't like the goals," said Paddock when asked about the decision to pull Gerber. "Routine saves have to be made."

Asked about being pulled, Gerber chose his words carefully: "I don't want to comment. That's all I'm going to say ... There were some weird bounces out there."

Senators centre Jason Spezza came to the goalie's defence.

"(Gerber) has been phenomenal," said Spezza. "He's the reason why our record is as good as it is. Not everybody is going to be on top of their game every night."

The Senators are playing their worst defensive hockey of the season. How bad was it? Well, Mike Fisher and Randy Robitaille were both minus-4 through 40 minutes. The club gave up at least four goals for the third straight game. In the first 19 games this season, they only allowed four or more goals three times.

"There's no need to panic," said Fisher. "We've faced this kind of situation before and we know what it takes. We're struggling right now and we're just not playing well."

Emery didn't face a shot until the Flyers ended up with a 2-on-1 that resulted in the go-ahead goal for Daniel Briere at 13:11 of the second.

You have to wonder why Philly coach John Stevens would start his backup goalie, Antero Niittymaki, against the top team in the East after facing the last-place Capitals only 24 hours earlier.

It looked like the move was going to backfire big time when the Senators took a 3-2 lead in the second.

Schubert fired a shot from behind the goal line that bounced off Niittymaki's skate and into the net at 3:30. But the Flyers kept battling.

The Senators will have four days to lick their wounds, before facing the New York Islanders Wednesday at Nassau County Coliseum.


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