Penalty parade proves downfall for Sens

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:37 PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. — For the second straight game, the Senators penalty killers were called upon to save the day.

This time, the task was made more difficult by the nature of the initial call against them.

“The first goal almost set the tone for the game,” coach Cory Clouston said after last night’s 5-2 loss to the Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum — a final score that was made to look respectable by late goals from Jarkko Ruutu and Alex Kovalev. “It was a power- play goal on a penalty (where) they high-sticked themselves. Those are hard to take.”

The referees, one (Justin St. Pierre) of whom also worked the night before when the Senators were given one power play to Florida’s seven, had sent Jonathan Cheechoo to the box 61 seconds before Steven Stamkos scored his first of two on the night with a deflection that bounced off Filip Kuba’s skate on the way to the back of the net.

“Right now, we’re not getting the breaks on the calls,” said Clouston. “It’s hard when you’re working hard, you go out there and you have the first two or three strong shifts, you want our guys to play physical, and it’s a battle in the corner and their stick very obviously and clearly is the one that high stuck their player. Those things are tough sometimes to rebound from. It’s hard enough to kill penalties against a team like this, when you don’t have to kill one you didn’t deserve.”

The Senators didn’t deserve much from this one, which marked the first time in five games they left the rink with nothing more than wounded pride.

“They buried their chances,” Clouston said of the Lightning. “And when we had our opportunities, we weren’t quite as hungry.”

While the Ottawa power play came up empty on three chances, the Lightning scored on two of its six opportunities.

Spezza sits out

Of course, the Senators were without catalyst Jason Spezza, who was a late scratch with an upper-body injury, as well as defenceman Anton Volchenkov (elbow), while backup Brian Elliott started in goal as Pascal Leclaire was allowed a little more time to recover from the flu.

But they weren’t using the absence of key players as an excuse.

“We’ve got so much depth here, we were going with four lines still, we should be fine,” said Mike Fisher. “We’ve just got to compete better at times, and not fall into a lull like we did in the second period that cost us the game.”

Tampa went up 2-0 when its fourth line of Todd Fedoruk-Zenon Konopka and Steve Downie outworked Ottawa’s fourth line.

But it was the third Tampa goal that was the backbreaker.

Nick Foligno, who went after Kurtis Foster when the Carp native ran Kovalev’s face into the glass late in the second period, probably had a little pent-up frustration from his role in the goal that minutes earlier had given the Lightning a 3-0 lead. Playing on this night as a centre, a position he hasn’t worked in awhile, Foligno was unable to interrupt Ryan Malone from a wraparound that also caught Elliott moving slowly.

“You’re going to get bad breaks and you’ve got to fight through it,” said Daniel Alfredsson.”

The teams continued with the nastiness that started two weeks ago, when the Senators beat the Lightning 7-1 in Ottawa.

Chris Neil and Konopka had a fight in the second that Konopka thought ended on a dirty note, complaining that Neil punched him when the players were tied up by the officials. Late in the game, Neil was unhappy about a cross-check he took in the mouth and offered up an opinion on a late scrap between Ruutu and the opponent Senators are starting to hate most — Downie.

“Ruutu asked Downie to go before they actually fought, and he’s like ‘no, no’ then (Downie) jumps him,” said Neil.

“Kind of gutless stuff, but what do you do? He’s not going to change. Everyone knows how he plays, so you’ve just go to be aware of it.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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