Sens GM: 'We've got to turn it up a notch'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:00 PM ET


 Two straight shutout losses? Not to worry, says Senators GM John Muckler.

 With the Senators trailing 2-1 in their Eastern Conference quarter-final playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Muckler called on the Ottawa players to step it up to score goals. Tonight's Game 4 at the Corel Centre would be an ideal place to start.

 While Ottawa hasn't scored a goal in 138 minutes and 21 seconds, Muckler isn't panicking.

 "I know this is a cliche, but this is the most important game of the year," said Muckler. "We certainly have to find a way to score goals. It's great to get scoring chances, but that's not putting the puck in the net. That means we've got to turn it up a notch. We've got a club that is capable of doing it.

 "We have to play with a lot of energy, determination and more passion to be successful. We didn't lose our skill level overnight."

 FRUSTRATION

 Many of the Senators have seen this frustration against the Leafs in the playoffs, a good reason for much concern.

 This is Muckler's first experience with the Battle of Ontario as GM of the Senators. He's convinced Ottawa can beat the Leafs.

 "I'm still confident," said Muckler. "Good teams stay positive in adversity and they find ways to win. We have a good team here. We have to play desperate and we have to make sure that this is the first priority in life.

 "You have to play with passion to be able to become a winner. Everybody has to do something out of character and everybody has to play their best game (tonight). Chances don't do you any good unless you use them to your advantage."

 The Senators were the NHL's highest-scoring team during the regular season. But now they can't buy a goal.

 Asked if he was disappointed with the effort of players like Peter Bondra, Muckler refused to point fingers.

 "I'm disappointed in a lot of people's play," he said. "We've got to get a bit more out of everybody on the ice. To win a championship, you've got to have people on your team who overachieve.

 "You can't just do what you're capable of doing and expect to win a Stanley Cup.

 'RAISE LEVEL OF PLAY'

 "Everybody on the team has to raise their level of play and you have to be prepared to be at your best. We need everybody on this team to contribute if we're going to win a Stanley Cup. Our level of play must improve."

 On that point, Muckler is right. The finger can be pointed at Bondra because he arrived late following a trade from Washington, but there are a lot of other guys who haven't found the back of the net either.

 Captain Daniel Alfredsson along with the likes of Todd White, Bryan Smolinski, Radek Bonk, Peter Schaefer, Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, Chris Phillips and just about everybody else with a stick need to find a way put the puck past Ed Belfour.

 Muckler knows the history of Ottawa's hasty spring exits at the hands of the Leafs, but he cautioned fans not to be nervous and called for the 18,500 in the building tonight to remain loud and proud in the face of adversity.

 "The fans were fabulous. That's the loudest I've ever heard this rink," said Muckler. "It's just unfortunate that we weren't able to reward them and give them something to get excited about by scoring a goal.

 "Maybe we need to meet their level of excitement. This club is capable of that. We've done it numerous times."


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