Sens falling from grace

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Daniel Alfredsson, where are you?

The Senators can't get their captain back soon enough after their third straight loss.

After coasting through much of the first two periods last night at the Bell Centre, the Senators came to life in the third ... but it was too little, too late.

The hard-charging Canadiens took a 4-1 lead, then held on to beat the Senators 4-3. Ottawa's Eastern Conference first-place lead over Montreal is down to one point.

Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly scored for the Senators, who are now 0-5 this season without Alfredsson, who has been nursing a sore hip flexor. The Senators can only hope Alfredsson is able to return tomorrow vs. Florida.

GM Bryan Murray, who was watching from the Bell Centre press box, may have to add a goaltender to his trade-deadline shopping list because Martin Gerber came up with another sub-par outing.

"We didn't play very well in the first 20 minutes," said Gerber. "We have to play well for 60 minutes. The third period was our best in the last three weeks. We're capable of doing it."

Senators coach John Paddock put on a brave face.

"We had a pretty good effort. We did a lot of things we asked them to do," said Paddock. "We did a lot of things that we want to keep doing.

"If we go out and play like we did (last night) we'll win a hockey game."

Paddock said he told the players to try to be patient going into the third.

Of all the losses, and there have been a lot lately, this ranked as one of the most frustrating because there was so much riding on the game.

When Spezza scored in the third period, there didn't look like there was much chance the club was going to come back, but they kept pressing. Only moments after Spezza cut the deficit to 4-2, Vermette scored to give the Senators hope.

That's where it stopped.

Gerber didn't get a whole lot of support, but he didn't come up with any big saves, either. He looked horrible on Tomas Plekanec's second goal of the night, which gave the Habs a 4-1 lead at the 10- minute mark of the second.

Earlier, he was the victim of a bad bounce off Joe Corvo's stick when Mark Streit fired a shot from the top of the left circle to give Montreal a 3-1 lead. That came just after the Sens wasted a 3-on-1 break that could have resulted in the tying goal. Mike Fisher dropped the puck to Chris Neil, who tried to hurry a pass back and it resulted in a turnover.

"You've got to take some of the good stuff out of the game. It wasn't a lack of effort," said Neil. "We're definitely missing skills guys on the ice and some leadership in the room.

"It's little things right now. We have that chance on the 3-on-1 and I try to pass the puck back to (Fisher) and it goes wrong. We just have to build on this performance."

Neil was turned down when he challenged Mike Komisarek to fight late in the second.

"I picked the toughest guy on the team. He'd obviously been told by his coach not to fight me," said Neil. "I wasn't going to go fight Saku Koivu."

It was the Senators' first loss in four games vs. the Habs this season, but it couldn't have come at a worse time.


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