Curse of the Southleast

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

SUNRISE, FLA. -- It might be the weakest division in the NHL, but the Southleast is having its way with the porous Senators these days.

This is how bad it has become for the Senators, who don't have a clue right now when it comes to keeping the puck out of their own net.

The Senators lost to a Southeast Divison team for the third time in a little more than a week, dropping a 5-3 decision to the Florida Panthers last night at the BankAtlantic Centre, which was barely a third full.

Five of the Southeast's teams are currently out of the playoffs and the Carolina Hurricanes are only there on the strength of leading the division and automatically getting the third seed.

That doesn't seem to matter when it comes to the Senators. Since their 15-2 start, the Senators have won but 15 of the 32 games and have slipped to 19th in the league in goals-against.

"I really thought we were good for two periods and Ray (Emery) was good," said Senators coach John Paddock. "In the third, I didn't think we were good and Ray wasn't very good."

Don't look now, but the Montreal Canadiens, winners last night, are now just six points behind the Senators with a game in hand for the Northeast Division lead.

Not even the return of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson shook them out of their funk last night.

They blew coverages and Emery gave up a weak goal to make it 4-2 for the Panthers early in the third.

"Fundamentally we can't keep shooting ourselves in the foot," said Alfredsson. "We've got to make them earn their goals. That fourth goal was a heartbreaker. Our line was out there, we give up a 3-on-2 and that's the difference in the game."

With Nathan Horton leading the way with four assists, the Panthers took control of a 2-2 game late in the second period with a power-play goal by Stephen Weiss, then Emery gave up a soft one through the legs just 68 seconds into the third period to finish off a Senators team which has now lost three straight and five of its last six.

IN TAMPA TOMORROW

They've got one more game before the all-star break, tomorrow night against the Lightning in Tampa, a team that is last in the East, but beat the Senators 2-0 in Ottawa Saturday night.

The Senators look like a team just playing out the string until the break, but what guarantees are there things will automatically change afterward?

None.

The Senators got some good mileage out of the line of Mike Fisher between Dean McAmmond and Chris Neil -- the trio each scored goals and Fisher added two assists -- but didn't have much else going for them.

FIT TO GO

Alfredsson tested his sore hip in an eventful morning skate -- Neil and defenceman Wade Redden almost came to blows during one drill -- and pronounced himself fit to go.

He had a great chance to open the scoring, but Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun robbed him during an Ottawa power play early in the first.

The Panthers led 1-0 after the first period, a rare occurrence for the South Floridians. They hadn't led after 20 minutes in 14 games.

"It's frustrating," said Fisher. "It seems like every little breakdown or mistake and it's in our net. Defensively, we're not solid at all.

"They worked for their bounces and took over the game."


Videos

Photos