'All must-wins'

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

The Senators are still craning their necks this morning, looking up at the 11 teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.

And while their anemic offence stayed true to form last night, Martin Gerber made the most of a rare appearance at Scotiabank Place.

Making his second start in the last three games -- his first at home since Oct. 22 --the Senators goalie made 24 saves in a 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"It's a big relief to get the win for me and for everybody," said Gerber. "It's huge for us to get the two points. Every year you go through times (where the team has problems scoring). You just have to play as well as you can and focus on winning."

"(Gerber) was real good, solid and square to the puck," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg. "Alex (Auld) has been so good, it has been tough to get him out of the net. We feel comfortable with both of them."

Gerber's 10th career shutout and only his second win in eight starts, stopped a three-game losing skid.

The Senators got goals from former Lightning defenceman Alex Picard and Daniel Alfredsson, an empty-netter.

Neither team had many great scoring chances. This was a match of two offensively-challenged teams. Coming into the game, the Lightning was ranked No. 29 in goal-scoring (68), while the Senators were last with 64. It was easy to see why once the puck was dropped.

Hartsburg reunited the top line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Alfredsson after splitting them up in a 5-1 loss in Washington Friday. The trio didn't produce a whole lot in the way of scoring chances.

With 4:11 left in the third, officials halted the game because there was a belief Heatley may have scored from the slot with a puck that appeared to dribble across the goal line. After consulting with the war room in Toronto, the officials ruled no goal.

Forward Ilya Zubov, who has 10 goals and 15 assists in Binghamton, was recalled and placed on the Senators' second line with Mike Fisher and Shean Donovan.

"We battled hard. But it seems like we can't get any bounces," said Alfredsson. "We've just got to keep fighting."

The Senators, who hadn't scored a power play goal in four straight games (0-for-14), finally cashed in at 5:04 of the second just as they were about to get roundly booed by the fans for coming up empty on a 5-on-3 for a span of 1:36 with Tampa's Steve Eminger and Ryan Craig in the box.

Just after MIke Smith had made a brilliant stop on a one-timer by Heatley from the slot, Picard took a pass at the top of the circle and beat the goalie on the glove side. That goal came with only four seconds left on the power play.

"What's special is that we won," said Picard. "These are tough times right now. I'm not really greedy about scoring against my old team. I was only there for 20 games."

Chris Phillips had a goal disallowed in the second period when it was ruled he interfered with Smith, even though it appeared he was pushed into the net.

The Senators will face the Thrashers Tuesday at home. They will then play nine of their next 10 games on the road with the world junior championship taking over on Boxing Day.

"They are all must-wins," said Fisher. "We dug ourselves a hole in a big way. We've got to get as many wins as we can."


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