La-lame can't save job

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:48 PM ET


 TORONTO -- It remains to be seen exactly how many Senators employes will be fired or relocated based solely on the results of yet the latest playoff series loss to the Maple Leafs.

 It figures, however, that Patrick Lalime lost his job in the latest game.

 It's hard to imagine the Senators' No. 1 goalie -- a soon-to-be restricted free agent -- stands much of a chance of being Ottawa's starter after capping an "inconsistent" season with a horrible night in Game 7 of the Battle of Ontario.

 There are others who should be in danger of losing their jobs following the dismal 4-1 loss at the Air Canada Centre -- which stands prominent on an ever-growing list of the franchise's all-time biggest flops.

 There's Jacques Martin, because no matter how good he is as a coach, he can't come up with a way to beat the Leafs.

 There's assistant coach Perry Pearn, because no matter how good his power play is, he couldn't come up with a way to have it work against the Leafs.

 There's GM John Muckler, partly because he banked on Lalime being good enough and turned out to be wrong, and partly because his trade acquisitions -- Peter Bondra, Greg de Vries and (from a year ago) Bryan Smolinski -- failed to make a mark.

 It's also hard to imagine the Senators would want Bondra, de Vries or Smolinski back, not at the wages they command and for what they give back.

 And then, of course, there's Radek Bonk. The reasons he has surely played his last game as a Senator are numerous, but suffice it to say he's not nearly worthy to be a front-line centre on a Stanley Cup contender.

 Unlike Bonk, Lalime is liked by those outside the dressing room as well as those in it. But that he is a prince of man is no consolation for angry Senators fans, who want to see what many consider the NHL's most talented team at least make it to the final.

 When the Senators fell behind 1-0 for the seventh straight time, there was obviously a belief they could come back again. When Joe Nieuwendyk scored the game-winning goal -- beating Lalime with a wrist shot to the blocker side that the goalie inexplicably tried to backhand with his catching glove -- hope faded.

 When Nieuwendyk made it 3-0 with another harmless-looking shot that found its way through Lalime's legs, it disappeared.

 "You guys saw it," Lalime said when asked to explain the errors of his ways. "The first one just kind of dropped on me. I couldn't believe it went in. The second one, I just thought ... 'I'll stand up'.... and somehow it got through.

 "You want to win, you want things to go good every night," he added. "We're only human. We make mistakes."

 Allowing two soft goals in a do-or-die situation is too costly. It also has damaged beyond repair the confidence the team has that Lalime can lead it to a championship.

 STARTS AND STOPS: Witnesses will admit it's true. In the hours leading up to Game 7, memories of big-game failures past had Cheapseats making guarantees of his own. In this case, it was 4-0, Toronto. At least it helps at deadline when the team you cover is so predictable ... After the disastrous first period, the Senators got off to a made-to-order start in the second. Vaclav Varada scored 22 seconds in and Nieuwendyk took a penalty 13 seconds later. But Pearn's pathetic power play did nothing with the most important opportunity of the season ... You had to know Martin Prusek would be in goal for the Senators to start the second period. But didn't you also think, for at least a split second, that Muckler would be behind the bench? ... Martin looked like a genius at the three-minute mark of the second when Prusek closed his legs to stop a 45-foot wrist shot by Gary Roberts. On this night, it would have been a goal had there not been a goaltending change ... But then, only a couple of minutes later, a soft Robert Reichel slap shot from the blue line somehow squeaked by Prusek and trickled just wide of the post. Can't anybody here stop that puck??? ...The Senators second best forward on the night (after Marian Hossa) was rookie Antoine Vermette. "To be honest, I think the only factors that matter at this time are character, passion and determination," the 21-year-old Vermette had said the previous day. Apparently, not enough of his teammates overheard him ... Asked for his feelings after the game, Vermette told Sportsnet: "It's hard to find words that you could put on TV."

 BETWEEN PERIODS: The Senators looked like they had Ed Belfour beat on two occasions in the opening 20 minutes. On the first, Bondra fired it right into the goalie's gut from about 10 feet out. Belfour didn't have to do anything except wince. On the second, he made a quick kick save after a deflection by Vermette. That was a nice one ... Darcy "Mother" Tucker fought Chris Neil with 16 seconds left, then skated to the dressing room waving to the Ottawa bench. But wasn't it nice of him to come out later to shake hands at the buzzer?

 THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM... : Daniel Alfredsson was asked about his predictions. "Everybody knows what happened," he said. "The guarantee we would win the Cup, the words were kind of put in my mouth. But it's not something I would take back. I believe in this team, it just didn't happen for us." ... At least three times in the last two games -- and maybe a total of five in the series -- Bonk was set up with the puck a few feet from Belfour. Sometimes he had an open side to work with. Usually he missed the net altogether. Never did he score. After awhile, it was painful watching him try ... Everybody in Toronto is thinking hockey these days. Everybody. Had lunch yesterday at a place called the Harbour Sports Grille. Ordered the "Vaclav Varada is a" Jerk Chicken Salad. Nearby parking was a real bargain. Just $8 for the whole day. "Unless the Leafs win," said the attendant. "Then it's free." ... Opening soon -- Renegades training camp, followed soon thereafter by another chance for Ottawa to beat a Toronto team.


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