Three a charm for Sens?

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

TAMPA -- Coincidentally or something more, a late morning, US Air flight from Ottawa to Tampa yesterday was cancelled.

Know why?

Lightning.

The Senators could soon know the feeling.

The lightning that grounded the above plane was in Philadelphia, which was a scheduled stopover for a connector on our way to Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final between the Ottawa "Supposetas" (John Tortorella: "They're supposeta win and I don't need to remind anyone, anymore .... until tomorrow") and the defending Stanley Cup champions, who Coach Torts is officially trying to re-nickname the Longshots.

The explanation from an Air Canada employee made sense. The Philly area is heavy in air traffic, and if conditions are going narrow a jet's already "small window of opportunity" to land there, the flight often gets terminated altogether.

LIGHTNING THREAT

Meanwhile, the only Lightning the charter-riding Senators should have been concerned with are the Bolts in the Sunshine State threatening to interrupt their scheduled journey to the NHL finals.

You really didn't have to be professional hockey forecaster to see this coming.

Before last week, five Senators (Ray Emery, Dany Heatley, Andrej Meszaros, Patrick Eaves and Chris Kelly) and never played in the NHL playoffs and three more (Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette and Brian Pothier) had experienced less than eight games.

The Lightning roster is full of guys who know exactly what it takes to win at this time of year because they've been there, done that.

If allowing Tampa off the hook comes back to haunt the Senators, if they wind up losing this series because they lost home ice advantage, their inability to deal with heavy traffic in Game 2 will most certainly be a reason why.

Twenty-four shots, including just two in the third period, against a goalie like John Grahame who plays so deep in his crease?

That's not the proper mindset.

Trap or no trap, the Senators have to be putting as many pucks at Grahame as they can.

As big as he is, there must surely be some significant openings when his butt is across the goal line.

Daniel Alfredsson, a 43-goal scorer during the season, was singled out for his no-shots flop Monday, but Heatley deserves some heat as well. He only had two shots on goal in Game 2, which was but one more than he produced in the series opener. No wonder he's still looking for his first post-season goal.

For a guy who scored 50 and recorded 300 shots on net during the season, at least you know the next puck Heatley fires should find mesh.

Okay, so there's much more to it than numbers and trends. Otherwise, you'd place a bet on the Senators winning tonight by a score of 3-2. They are 7-5 in Game 3s over the years, but have lost their last two. Their last three Game 3 wins ended 3-2.

Further proof we had idle time on our hands waiting for flights yesterday?

The Senators are 4-3 in series when they have won Game 3 but they have never bounced back to win a series after losing Game 3.

Eight of Alfredsson's 27 playoff goals have come in Game 3s.

And nine of the team's dozen Game 3s have been decided by one goal.

That slim margin is an indication that they featured two clubs comprehending the importance of a Game 3.

That means much pressure now should be on guys like Bryan Smolinski (91 career playoff games), Vaclav Varada (81), Alfredsson (71) and Chris Phillips (60) to preach inside the dressing room to the kids the importance of working hard in these matches.

ENOUGH EXPERIENCE

Martin Havlat (43 games), Mike Fisher (41), Zdeno Chara (37) and Chris Neil (36) have also enough post-season experience to know the example that must be set in tonight's key Game 3.

Talent doesn't have much status in the playoffs.

Guts, determination and the outright refusal to take no for an answer in battles for the puck generally make the most difference.

Have Senators teams possessed enough of those qualities in the past? No.

Do they have what it takes now?

Not if Monday was an indication. Not against the Tampa Bay Longshots.

Like a jet slated to land in Philadelphia, the Senators may only have a small window of opportunity to win the Cup in these salary-cap times.

They have to fully realize that, and play with the necessary desperation, or they will be canceled by the Lightning, too.


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