Sens can't jar Mason

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- This time, the Senators were unable to beat a Mason.

Fact is, they barely even challenged him.

Just 24 hours after turning in a tireless performance to defeat Chris Mason and the St. Louis Blues, the Senators bowed meekly to 20-year-old rookie Steve Mason and the Blue Jackets in a 1-0 loss.

The win leaves the Senators with a 4-2-1 record in their last seven games and stops their road winning streak at two games.

"It's disappointing," said assistant captain Chris Phillips. "We need to get on a roll. We had the opportunity to do that (last night), but we didn't take advantage of it."

The Senators equalled their season-low 18 shots. Part of that was their unwillingness/inability to play harder and part was their six penalties through the first two periods.

Mason recorded his league-leading seventh shutout of the season.

"We were shorthanded a lot, and in back-to-back games that takes a lot of energy out of a team," said coach Craig Hartsburg. "Against Columbus, you've got to score on your chances because you're not going to get many."

The Senators were unable to take advantage of three third-period power plays.

"Whether your team is going good or not, it's (a goal-scorer's job) to score goals," said Dany Heatley. "It's not an easy thing to do, but you have to have the mindset every game to generate chances. If you do, the goals will come."

It was a glove save by Mason off Heatley that earned the goalie a standing ovation at Nationwide Arena. The goalie didn't have to move his trapper much to make it.

DON'T TAKE THEM LIGHTLY

Senators goalie Alex Auld was solid with 24 saves in his first game since Jan. 6. Brian Elliott is expected to start tomorrow's matinee in Washington.

Earlier yesterday, Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock insisted the Senators were not to be taken lightly.

"I don't look at their record, I look at the way they've played," said Hitchcock. "They played really well before the (all-star) break. They played really hard. You throw out the New Jersey game (a 4-1 loss) ... New Jersey is a bear of a team. They just wear on you.

"(The Senators) came back and played great (Thursday) in St. Louis. That's the first time I've seen St. Louis get outworked in a month. I never thought that would happen. (The Senators) really kind of turned it up here a little bit."

While Hitchcock wouldn't say it's impossible for the Senators to make a run for the playoffs, he knows from experience how ridiculously difficult it will be.

Last season, the Blue Jackets were in the thick of the Western Conference standings at the break, but finished 9-16-6 and fell to 13th.

"It's not the point differential, it's the teams you've got to climb over," said Hitchcock.

"Once you get into the thing where you're below the (playoff) bar, there should be an unwritten rule you take the standings out of the locker room ... It's hard to look at."

For all the bad penalties the Senators took last night, they were also the victims of a curious call that cost them.

Almost two minutes into the second, R.J. Umberger gave Jason Smith a bump that caused the Senators defenceman to crash into the end boards. Mike Fisher went after Umberger, then Jarkko Ruutu joined in, and Chris Neil was pushing with another player as part of the melee. When the dust had settled, Ruutu and Umberger were given fighting penalties (Ruutu also was given a misconduct) while Neil was given two for roughing as "third man in" and a game misconduct.

Nick Foligno was just stepping out of the box from serving the Neil minor when Jakub Voracek deflected a point shot by former 67's captain Mike Peca for the game's only goal.

"It's hard to believe we ended up shorthanded from that," said Hartsburg.


Photos