Fans feeling the pain

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:40 PM ET


 They came to their feet in response to the growing cries of the invaders from Hogtown, came to their feet waving towels, exhorting their team on to do something ... anything.

 Senators fans at the Corel Centre last night had the right to expect more from their club.

 They did their bit, injecting the building with some energy with a little less than six minutes to go and the Senators trailing 1-0. They rose to shout down the rising "Go Leafs Go!" chants.

 The response from their players, in whom they have invested so much?

 A lost battle for the puck in the Leafs zone and the sight of Toronto captain Mats Sundin holding off Ottawa forward Bryan Smolinski for 100 feet until Sundin delivered the goal which made it 2-0.

 "I couldn't take a penalty, realizing the situation," said Smolinski afterwards. "I thought I had some help coming back, but I couldn't look around. Then I lost my footing at the very end."

 It is the same, painful story for the Senators against the Leafs.

 Lots of shots, 37 of them last night, which the Senators were quick to point out.

 No goals.

 Again.

 What wins at this time of year?

 It's Leafs forward Ron Francis winning a battle along the boards and a moment later Joe Nieuwendyk snapping home the winner 90 seconds into the second period.

 On that play, Smolinski pushed the puck weakly up the left-wing boards where Senators defenceman Brian Pothier was pitted against Francis.

 "At this time of year, you'd like to have a lot of pretty goals," said Francis. "But the checking is so tight. The puck came up the wall and I had a second or so to find him and get it out to him. He's a great, great scorer. That's a good example why there."

 That's all it takes.

 But it eluded the Senators last night.

 PRESSURE ON LALIME

 The Senators wound up being outshot 11-7 in that second period as the Leafs industrious forwards had numerous great chances, but could not put another puck behind Senators goaltender Patrick Lalime.

 He made a great save on a Gary Roberts deflection in the fifth minute.

 Lalime turned back Leafs forward Tom Fitzgerald after a turnover by Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov. Lalime made his biggest save during his own penalty half way through the second -- which came for holding the stick of Leafs forward Tie Domi -- when he got his shoulder on a shot by slick forward Alexander Mogilny.

 No, the Senators cannot claim that goaltending was the difference in this game. Lalime gave them enough game to win this one, battling through bodies stacked up in front of him.

 Belfour, meanwhile, made his share of crucial stops at his end of the ice, but did you see any Senators crashing the net, fighting for rebounds? How many times did Belfour have to just reach down and put his hand on a loose puck?

 How many times did you the see the Leafs move the puck 107 feet up the ice in a couple of passes with nobody getting touched? I saw it twice, but, then again, I wasn't really keeping count.

 At the other end, Belfour couldn't get enough of those backhanders from the bottom of the circle with nobody going to the net. Or those shots from along the goal line that hit the side of the net.

 The high point last night for Senators fans was seeing Domi ring it off the crossbar of the empty Ottawa net with just over a minute to go.

 That's not much.

 But against the Leafs, Senators fans should be getting used to that now.


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