Not even the return of captain Daniel Alfredsson could stop the Senators ship from sinking.
Now, the Senators stand on the brink of elimination from the NHL playoffs at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled out to a 3-0 series lead after Ottawa dropped 4-1 decision last night at Scotiabank Place.
The Senators are on the verge of having the life choked out of them and the Penguins can book the series with a victory tomorrow in Game 4 and Ottawa played its final, desperate card by putting an Alfredsson into the lineup without success.
While Senators winger Nick Foligno opened the scoring, it was a three-point effort by former Ottawa winger Marian Hossa along with Sidney Crosby’s first of the playoffs that led the Penguins to victory.
It’s going to take a miracle that only two teams in NHL history _ the 1942 Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders _ have pulled off, if the Senators are going to come back and snatch this series from the Penguins.
Through 40 minutes, the Senators may have had one of their best performances of the playoffs. But, it all started to slip away at the start of the third when Crosby skated in on a 2-on-1 and beat Gerber only 12 seconds into the third.
Then, just to put it away, Jordan Staal’s effort at 1:30 and Hossa’s first of the playoffs at 8:55 shocked the crowd which hoped the return of Alfredsson might be enough to buoy this struggling club back to life.
Alfredsson, who suffered knee and neck injuries after getting nailed by Maple Leafs winger Mark Bell on April 3, was supposed to all the first round, but after taking the pre-game warmup he made his return.
Playing mostly on a line with Spezza, who was doubtful with a leg injury until after the morning skate, and Foligno, the Senators were hoping they could get a boost from Alfredsson’s early comeback.
Trying to get the offence going, Senators GM/coach Bryan Murray placed Spezza on a line with Dany Heatley and Cory Stillman late in the second. Yes, Foligno was having a strong game, but the club needed scoring badly.
Perhaps, a third period double-minor for high sticking by Heatley on Staal summed up the kind of series this has been for the Senators. The club’s best players have struggled while the Penguins have been carried by their stars.
The only guy nobody can point the finger at is goalie Martin Gerber. He faced a lot of questions and has been the club’s best player and had no chance as Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot took a pass from Marian Hossa, skated in alone and beat Gerber five-hole at 5:39 of the second to tie 1-1.
It was Foligno who opened the scoring at 1:11 of the second by beating Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury through the five-hole. That came after Foligno tipped the puck by Penguins defenceman Ryan Whitney.
The Senators didn’t score in the first period, but it was their best of the playoffs. Fleury, who faced 14 shots in the first, had to make a big pad stop on Alfredsson on a chance from the slot with 11 minutes.
While the Senators hadn’t played nearly physical enough in the first two games of this series, they set the tone looking comfortable at home. Dean McAmmond appeared to shake up Malkin with a shoulder shot late in the first.
But, Gerber remained solid for the Senators. The Penguins had two power play chances and Gerber made a huge glove save on Jordan Staal all alone in front late in the first that kept the two clubs tied 0-0 after 20 minutes.
The club also called up G Jeff Glass, D Lawrence Nycholat and F Matt Carkner from its AHL affiliate in Binghamton yesterday. The Baby Sens played their final regular season game Sunday in Hershey with a 6-5 OT loss to the Bears. All three players are expected to join the Senators today ... Pittsburgh LW Gary Roberts, who scored twice in Game 1, was a scratch with a groin injury. That meant RW Adam Hall, who was a healthy scratch in the first two games of the series, was placed in the lineup.