OTTAWA - Don’t book your tickets for a Bytown vs. Beantown playoff series just yet.
The Senators couldn’t buy their seat for a first-round post-season date with the Bruins after Ottawa dropped a disappointing 3-1 decision in their regular-season home finale Thursday night at Scotiabank Place.
While the Senators gave away the shirts off their backs on Fan Appreciation Night after the game, they also surrendered two important points that would have locked up the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Milan Lucic, Greg Zanon and Benoit Pouliot scored for the Bruins, while only Jason Spezza was able to beat Boston goalie Anton Khudobin on the 45 shots he faced playing behind an undermanned squad.
The loss means the Senators are going to have to wait until after their final game Saturday in New Jersey to find out if their first-round opponent is going to be No. 1-ranked Rangers or the No. 2 Bruins.
The Capitals stayed within striking distance of the No. 7 spot in the East with a 4-2 victory over the Panthers. All that’s settled is the Sabres have been eliminated from the playoff picture.
The Capitals, who face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Saturday, can still finish No. 3, No. 7 or No. 8. All the Senators need is a point to lock up seventh, but they’ve had a tough time with the Devils this season.
The most noticeable players were the ones absent from the Bruins. Wanting to make sure they’re well-rested for the playoffs, centre Patrice Bergeron, defenceman Zdeno Chara and goalie Tim Thomas were left at home.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson admitted the Senators have had a tough time getting excited since booking a playoff spot.
“We’ve really tried to stay upbeat after the four wins and clinching the playoff spot, keeping the emotion going. It’s been tough to regroup to get the game to where we want,” said a candid Alfredsson.
“That game was nowhere near playoff intensity or the intensity we’re going to see next week. It’s more mental than anything. We’ll regroup, try to play a good game on Saturday and then move on.”
Ottawa had no shortage of chances. Defenceman Erik Karlsson had a golden opportunity to tie it up late in the third, but missed a wide-open net. The result was Lucic restoring a two-goal lead for Boston moments later.
The Senators looked like they were never going to solve Khudobin until Spezza moved the club to within a goal with 6:04 left in the second. He fired a shot from the slot that hit the post, bounced off Khudobin’s back and into the net.
A frustrated coach Paul MacLean received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was thrown out by the officials late in the third period after he got in argument over an icing call.
MacLean revealed later there were words exchanged beween he and the referee. The incident will be reviewed by the league’s head office, but it would be hard to believe he’d face any further discipline or a suspension.
“I can’t afford the fine,” said MacLean when asked to elaborate on what happened.