Aw, shoot! Hit the net

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

There are a number of reasons why the Senators are still the chased and not the chasers in this conference final with Buffalo.

Primarily, they have control of the series because more often than not they have control of the puck.

"I'd like not to be here today," Mike Fisher said following meetings at Scotiabank Place the morning after a 3-2 loss that prevented him and his teammates from making plans to spend the weekend enjoying the Canadian Tulip Festival.

"But we're still in a great spot.

"It's not like they dominated us all game and we're sitting here wondering why.

"We made more turnovers than we should have and we've just got to tighten that up."

If not for the 15 giveaways Ottawa committed in Game 4, the Sabres would have suffered a serious case of rubber envy. The Senators outshot them 33-22, but also fired 19 missed shots and had another 18 blocked.

That means they ended up directing 70 pucks toward Ryan Miller, while Buffalo, with nine missing the mark and eight that were blocked, only sent 39 Ray Emery's way.

A time of possession tracking would have weighed heavily in Ottawa's favour, too. That stems from what immediately transpired the moment the puck left an official's hand and hit the ice.

The Senators took 61% of the faceoffs, with only Chris Kelly (0-for-2) and Daniel Alfredsson (0-for-1) not winning as many as they lost.

"When you start with the puck instead of chasing it," said Antoine Vermette, "it's huge."

The dominant man in the circles, as he has been throughout the playoffs, was Vermette.

He won 12 and lost two, improving his post-season success rate to 60.7%.

The Islanders' Mike Sillinger had a 68% success rate, tops in the playoffs, but Vermette is the best faceoff man from the teams still competing. It isn't by fluke, either.

At the start of any series, video coach Tim Pattyson provides all centres with footage detailing the tendencies of the faceoff men they are about to meet.

Along with the film study, Vermette has also been working especially hard on his techniques after practices.

"We're all always working on it," he said yesterday. "Every time at playoff time, you try to get better in every aspect of the game.

"It's one area I can contribute.

"You watch the videos and who's doing what, but a lot of times you have to make adjustments ... it's a read.

"A lot of times it's details," he added of the difference between winning and losing. "The little things can make a big difference."

All the eggs

The Senators had gone 13 playoff games, plus the final eight regular-season games, with at least one of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza or Alfredsson giving them a goal. A member of the Big Three failed to score in just 19 games this season, with the Senators owning a 10-9 record minus their offensive contribution. "I don't know if they shut us down," Spezza said. "We still had a ton of chances. We hit some posts and we shot some pucks wide. There have been nights when we've been shut down, and didn't get anything accomplished. I don't feel it was one of those nights." ... Peter Schaefer's goal was his first in 24 games and just his second since Feb. 17. It also happened to come on a night when he led the team in shots on goal with five. "The fact he shot the puck in itself is something," said Bryan Murray. "Peter has such a terrific shot. He just doesn't shoot nearly enough." ... With four playoff goals, veteran Dean McAmmond trails only Alfredsson (nine), Spezza (six) and Heatley (five) in playoff sniping. Not bad for a guy that spends most of his time on the fourth line. "Dean is a good character guy," said Murray.

And one the Senators should make sure they re-sign.

This and that

Former NHL defenceman Brad Marsh put Derek Roy's goal nine seconds after the opening face-off of Game 4 into perspective. "Lyndon Slewidge was a minus-1. He didn't have time to get off the ice after the anthem," said Marshy, who opens his restaurant doors at Scotiabank Place for fans who have been gathering in droves to watch road games ... For the last time the Senators lost consecutive games in regulation time, you have to flip the calendar all the way back to Dec. 19-21 ... There may have been a touch of sarcasm in Murray's voice when he said a trip back to Buffalo provided the Senators with "a great opportunity to once again stay at the Millennium Hotel." The place is near the airport and, other than the mall across the street, not much else. The decor in the rooms is straight out of the 1970s. "Sometimes it's nice to get all together, get in the hotel, even if it's one we don't like too much, watch the game together, and get some camaraderie," said Spezza ... Before you start believing stuff Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff is saying about momentum or history being overdue for another "great" climb from a 0-3 series hole, Murray wants you to know one thing about coaches. "What we say," he said, "you should just take with a grain of salt."


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