Impossible dream lives on for Sens

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- The odds are so ridiculously skinny that any clear-thinking person will say they really don't even exist, but at least the Senators are showing some teeth.

One loss shy of their unofficial, mathematical elimination from the playoff race, they let out a growl and refused to die at the hands of a Penguin yesterday.

Trailing 3-1 with eight minutes to go, Ottawa scratched and clawed its way back to outlast Pittsburgh 4-3 in a shootout at Mellon Arena.

Five victories in the last six games have started whispers of the 'C' word.

"Any time you get a win when you're down two goals in the third, you realize the character," said Mike Comrie, who scored the winner in typically nifty fashion on Marc-Andre Fleury. "He's a quick goaltender. If you get him to move from side to side, you might be able to catch him. I just tried to make a quick move."

The Senators, who only need to win each and every one of their 14 remaining games to finish with the 94 points it took to qualify for the post-season tournament in the Eastern Conference last April, next face the Sabres at Scotiabank Place tomorrow night.

As improbable as it is that they can keep alive the dream until this April, it was extremely unlikely that they could mount a comeback against the Penguins, who were the hottest team in the NHL at 9-1-2 heading into the game.

Previously, the Senators were 1-25-2 this season when trailed after 40 minutes.

But goals by Nick Foligno and Chris Phillips 124 seconds apart and the some brilliance by goalie Brian Elliott, who made 27 saves through three periods and overtime and took his game to another level by stopping 4-of-5 Penguins in the shootout, led to victory.

Around a five-hole goal by Sidney Crosby, Elliott held his ground against Kristopher Letang, Petr Sykora, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz.

"You just have to play them like everybody else," Elliott shrugged when asked about turning back the Pittsburgh sharpshooters. "Like they're just another guy out there."

Malkin is just another guy who, heading into the day, led the NHL scoring race by 10 points over Alex Ovechkin. Malkin was held off the board for only the 14th time this season.

Elliott also kept the Senators in the game when the Penguins threatened to blow them out early in the first period. He made outstanding saves (one glove, one right leg) saves off Bill Guerin as the home side was up 7-0 on the shots clock three minutes in. But momentum curiously switched directions after Penguins goon Eric Godard broke the ice with a fluke goal at the 6:05.

The Senators didn't allow Pittsburgh another shot on goal in the remaining 13:55 of the first, and were three goal posts from taking complete control of the game themselves.

"We just stuck to the game plan," said coach Cory Clouston. "We bent, but we didn't break."

While Chris Campoli's third goal as a Senator sent the teams into the intermission tied, the Senators did some more bending in the second. They had a defensive zone breakdown and allowed an odd-man rush to put the Penguins in the driver's seat with 20 minutes to go.

Ottawa's hopes of a rally took another kick when Anton Volchenkov was unable to play in the third because of a lower-body injury. That left the Senators with five defencemen to go along with their stubborn attitude.

"We didn't quit," said Comrie. "In the third period, we executed well. And in the overtime, I think we outchanced them."


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