Senators need to rally fans

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

The Senators were the toast of the town last spring.

What a difference a year makes

Trailing 2-0 in their first round series against the Penguins, the Senators will make their home playoff debut at Scotiabank Place tomorrow night and, judging by the reaction in the city, the Red Zone could be a Dead Zone.

Coming off a 5-3 loss in Game 2 of the series Friday, the Senators will get a raucous introduction, but that could fade pretty quickly if they don't get a victory in Game 3.

They know they need a win to get people excited again.

"Now, we have home ice, so it's going to be exciting," said Senators winger Shean Donovan. "You build on (the Game 2 rally). We want to come out hard and it's going to be exciting here in the building for Game 3. What a great crowd it is here.

"(Let's) just take that momentum into Game 3 and we know what a huge game it is for us. We've got two days to regroup and we're excited to get going here ... Momentum changes and you never know what can happen in a series. It's a seven-game series, it's a long series."

Cars adorned with flags are tough to find in the city. Playoff fever is hard to catch when your hometown team has been nothing more than tepid the last half of the season.

There just seems to be some apathy in the community regarding the Senators. Getting to the playoffs is no longer good enough. Fans want the team to challenge for the Stanley Cup every year and so does owner Eugene Melnyk.

This isn't a new revelation for anybody who follows the Senators. The expectations have lowered since mid-January. Now, in the midst of a playoff series, Ottawa is facing long odds in coming back to beat the Penguins.

The Senators may have let their best chance to get back into the series slip away with the loss to the Penguins in Game 2. Only 30% of teams trailing 2-0 have come back to win the series. You can't ignore the numbers.

HISTORY LESSON

Senators coach and GM Bryan Murray always dismisses questions about history, but the Senators have never come back from being behind 2-0 in a series on six previous occasions.

The Senators could still get back into this. Many have already written them off because, perhaps, the Penguins are a team of destiny that is bound for big things led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Last year, the Penguins looked like they were skating with the weight of the world on their shoulders. The Senators didn't have those same expectations and sent Pittsburgh packing before the Penguins had a chance to taste the playoffs.

The slate was supposed to be wiped clean when the Senators reported for practice last Monday to begin preparations for the playoffs, but they have been troubled by the same old issues that hurt them in the regular season.

They aren't the same team without captain Daniel Alfredsson, centres Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly, but surely the Senators are better than what they've shown in the first two games against the Penguins.

The Penguins aren't taking anything for granted even though they're up 2-0.

"We all know it's not over," said Pittsburgh winger Ryan Malone, who scored the winner on the power play in Game 2. "Some times you can get up 3-0 (in a game) and you can get too comfortable. The good teams find ways to make sure the other team doesn't get momentum.

"We have to worry about Game 3 and take it a period at a time. They showed a lot of character in the last game. They've got guys that can score. It's going to be a battle."

A massive challenge awaits the Senators.


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