Senators coach perplexed

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Senators coach Craig Hartsburg couldn't find the single word to describe his team's play last night.

We'll do it for him: Atrocious, brutal, cruddy, deplorable ... you get the point.

The Senators reverted to the uninspired hockey that has haunted them so many times this season and they heard the jeers as they left the ice following a 4-1 loss to the Devils at Scotiabank Place.

Returning after the six-day all-star break, the Senators turned in the kind of performance fans have come to know and loathe. Only defenceman Alex Picard was able to beat New Jersey goalie Scott Clemmensen as Ottawa fell to 0-2-1 against the Devils this season.

"In the third period, we lost every battle. It wasn't even close," said Hartsburg. "When we talk about inconsistency in our game, that's usually where it starts. It's competing for pucks. We had a four-minute power play and never won a battle, never won a loose puck.

NO SHOTS ON GOAL

"It started on faceoffs and (the Devils) won them all. That's the story of the game. That's why that team is a good team. They stay with it. They stay determined. They don't crack. They just continue to play shift in and shift out and work. That's our problem."

How bad was it? During the above-mentioned four-minute man advantage (Brendan Shanahan was off for clipping Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson with a high stick), the Senators failed to register a shot.

The Devils were winning 3-1 with a little more than 14 minutes to go in the third period when Shanahan was penalized and Ottawa couldn't even muster a shot. Sad.

"You have to win loose puck battles and we never won one. Therefore, we never got set up," said Hartsburg. "You can draw Xs and Os all you want. That doesn't matter if you don't compete hard for the puck."

Winger Jamie Langenbrunner's second goal of the game only 19 seconds into the third period gave the Devils the two-goal cushion they needed to sink the Senators (although it was pretty much moot, as New Jersey is 21-0-1 when leading after two periods while Ottawa is 1-18-1 when trailing after two).

OFF NIGHT FOR ELLIOTT

"That was a pretty complete game for us," Langenbrunner said. "We limited their chances and didn't make mistakes and Scott made some big saves for us, too."

Goalie Brian Elliott, making his sixth straight start for the Senators, didn't have his best game last night. He didn't look good on Langenbrunner's first goal and gave up a weak rebound in the slot that led to Langenbrunner's second of the game. Shanahan iced it.

'THERE'S NO EXCUSE'

"There's no explanation and there's no excuse," said Senators centre Mike Fisher. "We just have to be hungrier, especially in a game where we need to win."

When Picard tied the game 1-1 at 10:54 of the second on the power play with his sixth goal of the season after he one-timed a perfect pass from Alfredsson, the Senators were playing with momentum and had forced Clemmensen, who earned his 20th win of the season, to make some big stops. But that's where it ended.

"We've got to try to get points out of every game. We know the task at hand," said Senators centre Jason Spezza.

"Overall, they kept us to the outside and we didn't get too many chances," said Alfredsson.


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