'Hard fought battle' lost

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

TORONTO -- The Senators took another step on the road to nowhere last night in the Battle of Ontario.

Trying to get back on track and into the playoff race in the East with time ticking away on the first half of the season, the Senators took another turn for the worse with a terrible 3-1 loss to the arch-rival Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

ROADKILL

After failing to score on three straight power play attempts -- including their second two-man advantage -- in the third, Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the winner on a wrist shot that got by goaltender Martin Gerber at 10:03 of the third to hand the Senators their 13th road loss in 14 games.

Coming off a 3-2 victory over the Oilers with speculation owner Eugene Melnyk is going to demand that GM Bryan Murray makes change if the club doesn't get its act together, the Senators needed a victory against the Leafs as the eight-game road trip continues tonight in New Jersey.

Making his third straight start, Gerber couldn't do a lot on goals by Ponikarovsky or Dominic Moore in the second, but didn't look good on Jason Blake's effort late in the third. Only captain Daniel Alfredsson was able to beat Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala, who was solid.

"It was a tough hard fought battle. We made a couple of mistakes that cost us," said coach Craig Hartsburg. "We weren't able to score on our opportunities. There was a lot of try. There was a lot of battle. We just had trouble scoring."

The Senators may have lost defenceman Anton Volchenkov again with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. Making his return after missing three games, he got hit into the boards midway through the third by Antropov, left the bench and didn't return.

With both teams struggling to score goals, the game was tight-checking until the third when the Senators pushed hard. Toskala had to come up big as the Senators had a 5-on-3 early in the second for 29 seconds that the club wasn't able to cash in.

'LOTS OF CHANCES'

"We got lots of chances. We just don't put the puck in the net," said centre Jason Spezza. "We've got to find a way to start getting some wins on the road. We're doing better things but we're not scoring."

After failing to score on a 5-on-3 for a stretch of 1:04 in the first, the Senators finally cashed in just as the second penalty was about to expire. Alfredsson was able to one-time a pass from Spezza by Toskala on the stick side to give the Senators a rare lead at 7:05.

Though the Senators got off to a strong start and took the 1-0 lead, the Leafs took the play to Ottawa in the second and, at times, the Senators looked like they were hanging on for dear life as they were outshot 13-8. Of course, it would have helped if Alfredsson had scored into an empty net late in the second.

The Leafs had tied it up at 9:47 of the second on an ugly mishap in their own zone. Defencemen Jason Smith and Volchenkov both overskated the puck to allow Moore to end up in alone and he beat Gerber with a backhander on the stick side.

"It's a very tough loss for us. We started the game really well and Toskala played really well. We had a lot of chances," said Alfredsson.

"(Toskala) keeps them in the game and they get a couple of chances and score. It just seems like every time we make a mistake it ends up in our net."


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