Too many passengers

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- The Senators have won at least three games in a row on 11 separate occasions this season, nine of them in the regular season and another two in this long, wonderful and unprecedented playoff run.

The chances of making it 12 are slim and none and there are reports slim is already on summer vacation, wearing mouse ears and eating cotton candy at Disneyland across the street.

The Senators might have won at least three games in a row on 11 separate occasions this year, but the sticking point in doing it a 12th time is none of those three-game streaks were against the Anaheim Ducks.

Also working against the Senators digging out of a 3-1 hole in the Stanley Cup final -- it would be only the second time a team has done it -- is, well, the Senators are the other team.

They are exactly where they deserve to be in this Stanley Cup final because they have managed to play but four good periods in four games and when you are playing in June, that ratio means your summer will be spent lowering your handicap and wondering what if, not raising the Stanley Cup and relishing what was.

The Senators will go into tonight's game trying to prevent the Ducks from becoming the first team to hoist the Stanley Cup in California.

They will go into tonight's game still looking for their first full, 60-minute effort of this final.

They played a great first period in Game 4 when they had a chance to tie this series, but then abandoned any sense of urgency or composure.

Two goals in a minute by Ducks centre Andy McDonald to give the Ducks the lead?

C'mon. The second goal so ridiculously easy, the puck moved 200 feet from behind the Ducks net to behind Senators goaltender Ray Emery in two easy passes?

"There was no reason to play the way we did in the second period," said Senators coach Bryan Murray.

'COMPLACENT'

"I thought we got complacent on our forecheck and let them break out too easily," said Senators centre Jason Spezza after practice yesterday. "If you look at the games, they're scoring off 2-on-1s and odd-man rushes. They're scoring off what we're giving them. You have to give them credit, they're up 3-1.

"We're scoring the tough goals. They're not giving us anything."

The Senators will go into tonight's game with their fans still wondering when they will have more players than passengers, when more of his teammates will play with the hustle and edge of a Mike Fisher, Ottawa's best player in this final.

They will go into tonight's game still waiting for their big line, not to be the dominating force it was in the first three rounds, but, at the very least, more competitive.

They will go into tonight's game facing elimination for the first time in these playoffs and maybe that will be enough for them to play with edge and determination for as long as it takes to win a game.

The Ducks didn't seem to need that kind of finality sneering in their faces to be motivated in Game 4. They sized up the situation after the first period.

They had been outplayed and trailed 1-0 on Daniel Alfredsson's first-period last-second goal. They were without suspended defenceman Chris Pronger, arguably the best defenceman in the game.

"After that we felt a bit lucky, managed to regroup. We played a lot better in the next two periods," said Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer. "We knew we had to. There was no option at that point. We had to come out and be a lot better."

That is the voice of a three-time Cup champion.

"We knew we had to. There was no option at that point."

Is that the difference between these two teams?

Both teams had options after that first period.

The Ducks chose theirs.

The Senators had the choice forced on them.

If the Ducks were clearly the better team, the more skilled team, that might be easier for Senators fans to accept.

What is confounding to them as this final moves to what history says will be an inevitable outcome is how the Senators could not get more out of more players.

They were more physical than the Ducks in Game 3, so it doesn't seem to be a case of them being intimidated.

They solidly outplayed them for the first period in Game 4, so it doesn't seem to be a case of not having a plan and being able to make it work.

It is a question, as it almost always is at this time of year when just two teams are left at the big dance, not of who wants to lead, but who wants to lead most.

The Ducks made that decision for both clubs.

They were faced with losing a game and being tied 2-2 in the Stanley Cup final.

Judging by the outcome, they found that a more urgent situation than the Senators did losing the same game and facing elimination.


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