Falling flat to Leafs

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

TORONTO -- This time, the Senators failed to show up for Ray Emery.

What they missed was an opportunity to pick up two points against a team that looked remarkably like the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

Costly giveaways, undisciplined play and a lack of offensive presence added up to a 4-2 loss for Ottawa and Emery, who was making his first start in goal since missing a practice and paying for it last Tuesday.

Just one goal was his fault.

"Most disappointing was that they scored four goals from the edge of the crease," said coach John Paddock. "I don't know what (Emery) is supposed to do there.

"We got bounced off the puck all night. Get some determination and grit to your hockey game. Have as much desire to stop a goal before it's scored."

Indeed, on Canadian Forces Night (no, the troops weren't in Toronto because of the snow), the injury-depleted Leafs cleaned the ice with the Senators.

After their worst January in nine years, the Senators began February with a brutal effort that saw their Northeast Division lead slip to three points over the hard-charging Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs, who beat the Islanders 4-1 earlier in the day, are Ottawa's next opponent Tuesday in Montreal. By that time the Senators' lead could be down to one.

"We've got to show a little more determination," said Mike Fisher. "We've got to start playing like a first place team, for sure."

The Senators trailed by just one heading into the third period, despite being outshot 21-7 through 40 minutes (they were outshot 26-20 on the night). At that point they had also been asked to kill six penalties -- successfully five times -- while the lily-white Leafs were not found guilty of a single crime.

Neither team took a penalty in the third, meaning nary a Leaf visited the box two days after Toronto felt robbed by officials in an OT loss to Carolina.

"The Leafs didn't get screwed by the refs tonight, did they?" mused GM Bryan Murray.

Said Jason Spezza: "It's tough to explain why they get seven or eight power plays and we get none, but that's out of our control. It's tough to beat a team when you're giving them momentum like that."

GAVE IT AWAY

The Leafs were without eight players -- including six regulars -- lost to injury, suspension or "personal leave. "If sympathy was shown in the form of giveaways, the Senators were given plenty of it.

Ottawa suffered what would turn out to be a severe blow when Chris Phillips was a last-minute scratch due to illness.

Without one of their top two defencemen, the visitors had some ugly moments.

The game wasn't seven minutes old when Joe Corvo inexplicably coughed up the puck 20 feet in front of the net, presenting Boyd Devereaux with a golden opportunity that was turned away by Emery.

A couple of minutes later, Luke Richardson turned over the puck to Devereaux (he was wearing Leafs blue, honest) on a play that was quickly translated into Toronto's first goal by Jiri Tlusty.

How much did the Senators miss Phillips? At one point, they even had to use Corvo on the penalty kill. The struggling blueliner quickly took one of his own, leaving Ottawa at a 3-on-5 disadvantage for 29 seconds.

The Senators survived, as they did the indiscretions of Andrej Meszaros, who took three second-period penalties.

Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, expected back from injuries soon enough, were once again sorely missed.

Nick Foligno, who has just one goal in 17 games for Binghamton, scored his sixth in 34 outings with the parent club.

Chris Neil tied the game with his sixth of the season early in the third, but the Senators promptly handed the game to the Leafs by allowing them to score twice in less than four minutes.

Wade Redden was pushed off the puck on the winner.

"At that point we were battling back and it could have went our way," said Dean McAmmond. "Then we had the breakdowns and they capitalized.

The Senators' best line early on was a Foligno-Randy Robitaille-Shean Donovan unit, and not just because it provided the team's only first period goal. Despite a few shifts of fine cycling in the offensive zone, the Senators weren't getting any pucks on the net, and were outshot 12-3 in the opening 20 minutes.

"We could have showed a little more energy, a little more emotion," said McAmmond.


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