Another post-season of screams

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

So, here we are again, another morning after, trying to figure out how another Senators' off-season has started before many thought it should.

Sure, the Senators put up a good fight last night, battling the Sabres right down to the end, right up to the moment Buffalo's Jason Pominville silenced the Scotiabank Place crowd with a short-handed goal 21/2 minutes into overtime.

Senators goaltender Ray Emery was left sitting in the crease, the puck right behind him near the goal line as the crowd was stunned into silence at the realization of what it had just seen.

A spectacular regular season, a first-round win over the defending Stanley Cup champions and what's left this morning is that image of Emery sitting in the crease, Pominville diving into the arms of his teammates just inside the Ottawa blue line.

Another spring that starts out with such potential and ends with another moment like the others ... the puck trickling out of the glove of Ron Tugnutt, or the bloody face of Tie Domi, or that pass to Jeff Friesen, or any puck going by Patrick Lalime shot by a Maple Leaf.

This one will be Pominville going around Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, cutting back out from the goal line and tucking the puck in by the far post on Emery.

With the Senators on a power play in the overtime and going for it, coach Bryan Murray put Alfredsson back on the point, trying to win rather than trying not to lose.

"It's Jason Pominville," said Murray of his decision to not use a defenceman on the point.

"It's not like it was (Chris) Drury or (Daniel) Briere out there. We felt we could defend that. If you're not trying to win the hockey game, you shouldn't be playing."

The Senators players were left once again to try and explain the unexplainable, their usual post-game trip to the gym unnecessary because there are no games left to play this spring.

"We underachieved," said Senators forward Mike Fisher, one of the guys who consistently played with some determination.

"We let a lot of people down. We all have to take responsibility for it. It's disappointing, but it's not a lack of effort. The guys care, for sure. We've been trying to find ways to win. We just haven't been able to do it. It's hard to explain."

The Senators had such a spectacular regular season, the ambassadors of the "new" NHL for much of it, but against the Sabres became mistake-prone and tentative.

"I thought the big difference was they really attacked our 'D'," said Murray. "We got burned early in the series and got cautious."

There's no question the Senators supplied their fans, who crammed Scotiabank Place like they have no other season, with many nights of top-flight entertainment.

But, for whatever reason, maybe a lack of respect for the Sabres in the early part of the series, maybe an inability to overcome the shock of losing a Game 1 they appeared to have won in spectacular fashion, the Senators fell behind in this series and couldn't recover.

"I think that really hurt us," said Alfredsson of the Game 1 collapse. "It really hurt our momentum."

A lot was inflicted by the Sabres, a well-coached, gritty bunch that matched the Senators' speed and found a way to get the big goals when they needed them.

They had a Drury, a Pominville, a J.P. Dumont.

The Senators had Alfredsson missing the net, Dany Heatley not finding it and Martin Havlat fizzling after a great start.

The Senators showed some battle the last couple of games, but waited too long for the desperation to kick in.

Now, the Senators will have to wait for another spring, and live through another summer and winter of having people question if they have what it takes.

Some won't have to worry about it; they'll be gone.

For the rest?

"When you're picked to be a top team and you don't win," said Murray, "it lives with you for eternity. People don't let it go ... 'The Ottawa Senators didn't do it.' "

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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