Well, at least the first half ended on a good note.
All the things that were missing from the Senators' game for most of the first 41 were there in a 5-1 win over the Hurricanes: Solid goaltending, scoring spread throughout the lineup and a power play that created momentum.
Now the challenge for the Senators is to start the second half in Atlanta tonight the same way.
"I saw guys (last night) who had 100-lb. bags of cement on their backs (shake) them off, especially after scoring some goals," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg, whose club closed out the first half 14-21-6 and barely out of last place in the NHL. "It was nice to see smiles in the locker room and on the bench.
"Now we've got to find a way to play better on the road."
Senators rookie goaltender Brian Elliott picked up his first win in his second start and pretty much ended Martin Gerber's tenure in Ottawa. GM Bryan Murray said he will decide tomorrow after meeting with Gerber what to do with the netminder, but a two-week conditioning stint in Binghamton in the AHL would appear to be the next step. Elliott will make his third straight start tonight.
Elliott supplied a couple of big saves early in the second with the Senators nursing a lead but on their heels.
"There were times there when we were struggling and looked nervous in our end, but he was rock solid," said Hartsburg.
"You always want to keep going when you're feeling good," said Elliott, who made 23 saves as Ottawa snapped a five-game losing skid. "If they want to give me the opportunity, I'll take it."
It's just one game, but the Senators seemed a much more determined bunch (where's that been most of the year?, suffering fans ask). Centre Jason Spezza had one his best efforts of the year. Never mind his spinning back pass to Dany Heatley to open the scoring. His best play was skating back hard to lift the stick of Carolina's Ray Whitney, taking away a scoring chance on a 3-on-2 in the first minute of the third with the score 3-1.
That's the kind of "compete" Hartsburg has been looking for from Spezza.
Winger Antoine Vermette -- who scored the goal to make it 3-1 with 26 seconds left in the second -- has put together a string of solid games and was winning battles along the boards. Mike Fisher joined in with his fourth goal of the season and defenceman Chris Phillips closed out the scoring with his fourth.
"It was great to see a lot of different guys scoring," said Spezza. "Things have been hard, but we've talked about every day being a new day. We're not looking behind or too far forward."
The Senators led 2-0 after the first period on Heatley's first goal at home since Dec. 8 (his 17th of the season) on a crazy behind-the-back-pass by Spezza onto Heatley's tape in the slot. Dean McAmmond scored his second goal of the season at 11:09 after a turnover by Carolina defenceman Niclas Wallin.
But the Senators were on their heels for the early part of the second and former Senators defenceman Joe Corvo, who feasts on his old club, scored his second in as many games against his old teammates this season and his third in three games going back to last year.