On the bright side -- which was the favourite position of the home side after the game --at least Antoine Vermette was getting a stronger sniff last night.
In the end, however, he left the building with nothing more.
Amid all the chatter this week about the great divide of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, there was barely a mention of the Senators' need to have Antoine Vermette and Mike Fisher separate themselves from the mini-funks in which they have started the season.
Heading into last night's meeting with the Panthers, the two had combined for just a single point -- a goal scored by Vermette back in Sweden 17 days (but what seems like an eternity) ago.
A lot of what ails the Senators will be remedied once those two start going again, and Vermette appeared to be on his way against the Pussy Cats. In the final minute of the second period, he was the recipient of a fortuitous bounce that sent him in on a breakaway, yet all he could do with the chance was test the pads of goalie Craig Anderson.
He had a couple of more point-blank opportunities in the third, but nothing compared to the one he was presented with about a minute from the final buzzer. Anderson was down and out, and a falling Vermette fired the puck toward the empty net.
Suddenly, it disappeared into the goalie's trapper.
"You can't get frustrated," Vermette said after the 3-1 loss. "I don't think it's going to help at the end of the day. On the other hand, I think it's positive that I had some chances. Usually, it's a sign ... before getting on a roll you get these chances.
"I had two great chances there ... I think it's going in the right direction."
Vermette saw positive play from the team, as did coach Craig Hartsburg and a variety of others.
"When you look at the game overall, I thought we worked pretty hard, especially in the second and third," said Vermette. "We did little things, smarter and hard. If you look at it, we created chances to score and it's a good sign. We had a lot of shots (42) overall. It's positive. As much as the loss was disappointing, we built on something ... we can build on something there."
Keep in mind, next time they won't be facing Florida's backup goalie.
STARTS AND STOPS
No surprise, really, that D Brian Lee was sent down to Binghamton yesterday when the decision was made to get D Luke Richardson in the lineup. Lee has played without the confidence he had when he knocked Richardson out of the lineup to finish the season and participate in the playoffs last season. "Obviously, you always keep working on your skill set and I'm going to continue working on my shot," Lee said before leaving Scotiabank Place ... It went down as the second shot, but it sure looked like it was the first puck sent at G Martin Gerber that found its way to the back of the net. Not that Gerber was the goat on that "unassisted" Rostislav Olesz goal. Those horns belonged on D Alexandre Picard, who is fast becoming far too generous for the Senators' own good. At this rate, he should soon find himself paired with Lee again. In Bingo ... The new Ottawa line combinations generated a whopping two shots on goal through the game's first 19:20, until Daniel Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley were reunited on the Senators' first power play. Even with that, they manufactured just one more ... If the Senators are in a position that makes sense, they should make a pitch for Panthers D Jay Bouwmeester before the NHL trade deadline. The gifted, smooth-skating blueliner is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer and it doesn't appear he wants to re-sign in Florida. He'd look good anywhere, but particularly sharp in a Senators sweater.
Highly thought of Senators prospect Patrick Wiercioch has attracted Team Canada scouts and just may get himself an invite to the junior team's December camp, despite the fact he wasn't asked to the one here in the summer. Wiercioch, a lanky defenceman who was Ottawa's second-round pick at the June draft, has three goals and two assists in three games as a freshman at the University of Denver ... The Senators' consecutive sellout streak was stopped at 39 games, as only 18,952 took advantage of the team's second "half-price tickets" promotion in three games ... Nobody in attendance bothered to boo ex-Senator Cory Stillman, who as an unrestricted free agent wanted to stay close to his Peterborough home and play for a contending team. Florida, of course, is neither ... Winning the in-house Do You Think You Can Dance contest was some girl named Donna, who probably shouldn't have been doing that with a Senators flag. What would your mom say, Donna?