ATLANTA -- Two fourth-liners and a defenceman managed to score for the Senators Thursday. But on another dark and humiliating night, the stars were again nowhere to be seen.
Their best players weren't their best players as the Senators were spanked 6-3 by the Thrashers at Philips Arena for their seventh loss in eight games since the Olympic break. This time they gave up three unanswered third-period goals.
"When a team is looking for a spark and something to build off, you couldn't really have drawn up a better scenario than to come from behind and come back and win the game," said defenceman Chris Phillips. "To let it go in the third, after having the momentum, makes it that much more frustrating."
The Senators were trailing 3-1 late in the second period when Jarkko Ruutu and Phillips scored 43 seconds apart. The Ruutu goal was controversial (it was rightfully allowed, but Atlanta wasn't happy) as the Senators pest elbowed Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg in the head while he was battling for the puck just before putting it in the open net. Hedberg may have been still rattled when Phillips tied his career-high with his eighth of the season. But rather than build on the momentum, the Senators fell apart like a cheap suit in the third period.
Ex-Thrasher Andy Sutton was sent to the box for a hit on Eric Boulton 2:27 into the final frame, and a minute and a half later Nik Antropov scored to put Atlanta ahead to stay.
"It was a clean hit," said Sutton. "I'm not sure why he called it or what he saw from his angle, if it was different than it actually was, but it was a bad time to call it if you weren't 100% sure."
"I thought it was a call that didn't need to be called," said coach Cory Clouston. "I just watched the replay and I think it was a great hit. His shoulder, his arm was straight down ... you can't ask him to hit any differently. I'm very disappointed in that call.
Colby Armstrong blasted a slapshot past Brian Elliott's trapper less than two minutes later, and the Senators were caught standing around watching as Armstrong added another at the 10:20 mark.
Clouston said there was "not nearly enough" offence from his team.
"We still need our top six, seven forwards to contribute more offensively," he said.
He offered an abrupt "yes" when asked if he needed his goalie to make a few more saves.
"It's very difficult to win games when you're spotting teams two or three goals right off the bat."
When asked about his own play, Elliott said: "It's tough, they do a good job criss-crossing in the offensive zone, and creating opportunities and shooting lanes. I don't think we could block as many shots as we normally can. But then, I have to be better and make the big save at a time when it's needed."
The Senators lost Milan Michalek in the second period, when he flipped over Hedberg and into the post while breaking to the net on a short-handed attempt. Michalek left the game favouring his left leg and did not return.
With the return of Mike Fisher and Filip Kuba, the Senators had an injury-free roster for only the second game all season. Kuba's return put Matt Carkner in the pressbox (Carkner has been playing hurt and not practising), while Shean Donovan and Jesse Winchester were the scratches up front.