What home advantage?

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:42 PM ET


 For Toronto, it's become a favourite target.

 For the Senators, a house they can no longer protect from blue invasion.

 Four times the Leafs have happened by the Corel Centre this season, and four times they've walked away with a victory.

 This ain't just sneak-out-the-back-door-a-second-before-the-cops-arrive-but-there-are-clues-left-all-over-the-place kind of stuff, either. This is a broad daylight, phone ahead type theft. The stereo from the getaway car is blaring in the driveway. The dogs are barking. And still, the Leafs can't be stopped before stealing two points.

 They might as well take the deed. They own the Senators when the teams meet in the cow pasture formerly known as Kanata.

 In the four games, Ottawa has been outscored by a 15-5 count, and remember, the Senators got four of the five in an overtime loss.

 Those four maybe weren't such a good idea, either. They seemed to rile up the Leafs. Since jumping to a 4-0 lead in a game here Feb. 5, the Senators have allowed Toronto 13 unanswered goals. Thirteen.

 Five that night, six in the season-ending debacle and then the latest, most damaging pair.

 "I can't, really," Mike Fisher said when asked to explain why the Senators can no longer deal with the Leafs at the Corel Centre. "But I know our time will come. We're going to bounce back. If we keep playing (like last night), we're going to get wins.

 "We outchanced them. We (more than) doubled them in shots. We did a lot of good things, but we just didn't get rewarded.

 "We can't get down," he added. "We know next game, things will be different if we keep going at them like that."

 They have no choice but to believe that will be the case. But right now, such words are unconvincing.

 STARTS AND STOPS: Eddie Belfour wasn't just good, he was magical. How many spectacular saves did he make on shots he never saw? Four? Five? "You've got to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips. "He made some great saves, but on a few of them there was so much traffic, and they just hit him. We've just got to find a way to get it by him." ... Echoing those sentiments was Vaclav Varada, who has been on the other side of such goaltending exhibitions in the past. "I went through this when I was with Buffalo," said the Senators winger. "When (Dominik) Hasek was unbelievable. We've got to find a way to not make (Belfour) look great." ... What do they put in that blue- line paint, anyway? Some sort of stick 'em or glue? Whatever it is, it affected only Bryan Smolinski. For his legs stopped moving when he hit it a couple of seconds before Toronto made it 2-0. Mats Sundin's didn't ... The "Eddie, Eddie" chants of encouragement usually heard at the Corel Centre were replaced, at the start anyway, by the haunting "Belfooouuurr" taunts. Because playoff tickets went on sale before the matchups were settled, there had to be less than half the number of Leafs fans in attendance than normal ... Finally, they've gotten it right. Yes, the Senators have finally figured out its best to allow their visitors to take the ice first at the start of the night. That way the home-town fans can actually cheer their heads off to give the team an immediate lift, rather than interrupt to boo the opposition ... Two of the Leafs' four first- period shots were from their side of centre ice. In fact the first, about 51/2 minutes into the game, travelled about 165 feet before it reached Patrick Lalime. The Senators goalie was sharp on the other two, however, making a left-shoulder save off Brian Leetch and stuffing Alexei Ponikarovsky on a wraparound ... Marian Hossa outshot the Leafs by himself in the opening period, picking up five of Ottawa's 13.

 BETWEEN PERIODS: That was Friends co-star Matthew Perry in attendance and on the centre-ice scoreboard, proudly displaying the Senators cap he was wearing while cheering for his home-town team. He probably didn't even realize his first name was spelled incorrectly by the board operators ... In a second-period segment that clearly stated Ottawa's goalie is back on top of his game, Lalime bailed out defenceman Anton Volchenkov by standing his ground to make the save off Tom Fitzgerald following a giveaway by the Russian defenceman, then took a holding the (Tie Domi) stick penalty, after which he made two huge saves (Alex Mogilny, Bryan McCabe) on the ensuing power play ... Wonder if GM John Muckler had his fingers crossed when he said the Senators were going to pick up the option on Peter Bondra's contract? .... The Senators got a break -- as Leafs president Ken Dryden and GM John Ferguson Jr. loudly pointed out from the box behind us -- when Wade Redden caught a puck in front of Lalime and threw it from the Ottawa zone. It should have been a penalty, and it not only would have left the Senators two men short but without either (Redden and Chara) of their best defencemen.

 ICE CHIPS: With a critical 1:59 man-advantage opportunity on a fresh sheet of ice to start the third period, the Senators went offside more (twice) than they tested Belfour (once). That's sad. Or pathetic. Or sadly pathetic ... If you didn't know who Ponikarovsky was before this series began, you're quickly learning. The towering Russian winger, who just turned 24 last Friday, was one of Toronto's best forwards ... The Senators had won 76% of faceoffs through two periods and 66% by game's end. Smolinski was an incredible 15-3 in what had to be his best showing in the circles as a Senator ... By the way, Hossa finished with 10 shots on goal. For all the good it did him or the Senators.


Videos

Photos