Sens' flop inexcusable

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:02 PM ET

 TORONTO -- It was perhaps fitting on a night when none of the Maple Leafs seemed interested in shooting on the Senators net that a Senator would score the winning goal in Toronto's 2-0 win last night at the Air Canada Centre.

 The Senators flatlined on this crucial night in Game 5 of a tied series, blew a chance to wrap their arms around a game and a series sitting there for the taking.

They couldn't take advantage of a team without its captain and offensive force, couldn't even muster a good scoring chance during the first two power plays of the game, couldn't even force Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour into a save worth remembering when the game was on the line.

 To make it even worse, in the absence of Leafs captain Mats Sundin, it was enforcer Tie Domi -- who, if he isn't the most hated Leaf in Ottawa, is tied for first -- who was credited with the winning goal, which actually went into the Ottawa net off Senators forward Bryan Smolinski.

 The Senators had absolutely no business losing this game.

 The Leafs had no business winning it.

 This was the Senators team their fans had feared, a team which lacked any sense of urgency, a team which allowed the undermanned Leafs to check them to a standstill.

 The Leafs were content to chip it in and chip it out and the Senators played right along. No adjustments, no passion, no bold move to dictate where the battles for the puck should be.

 "It was not our best effort," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

 For that, there is no excuse, no explanation, no way a Senators fan could understand that being the case.

 It was as if the Senators collectively believed that they could turn it on at some point off on the horizon, elevate their game for a few moments and snatch the game away.

 Instead, they allowed the Leafs to stay in the game, opened the door for Toronto's fourth line to beat them.

 It was a game unlike the previous four, more like a game in mid-November than one in mid-April. Perhaps it was the absence of Sundin, out with a suspected hip injury, which dampened the spirits in the Air Canada Centre.

 The mood was downcast and the attempts by the crowd to create a buzz were feeble at best.

 When the biggest cheer through the first 40 minutes was brought on by a tribute to former Leafs defenceman Bob Baun -- legendary for scoring an overtime goal on a broken leg -- you know some intensity has gone missing.

 The appearance of Baun seemed to mock Sundin's absence. Here was a guy who scored on a broken leg and Sundin was unable to go because of some vague "lower-body injury."

 No matter. The Senators have now played the Leafs four times in the playoffs without Sundin in the Toronto lineup and they have lost every time.

 Where was the Senators team which dominated in Game 4?

 Where was that team?

 Why, stuck in a scoreless tie, did they come out for the third period as lifeless as ever and allow the Leafs' fourth line to decide the game on a play that started with a turnover along the boards in the Leafs zone, 93 seconds into the biggest period of the year?

 There's not much time for the Senators to look inside and find the answers to those questions.

 Belfour wound up with his third shutout of the series, but you couldn't tell if he played well. The Senators never really got close enough to test him.

 There have been disappointing losses in the Senators' playoff history, most of them at the hands of the Leafs.

 But this?

 Without Sundin in the lineup, the Leafs were not even close to the Senators in talent.

 You couldn't credit Belfour for stealing this one.

 Now the Senators must find a way to win two straight, but first they must take a long look inside.

 What, if anything, will they find?


Videos

Photos