Will Sens put up a fight?

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

It will be remembered as the little bounce that led to the big bounce.

All the Senators' hard work through two periods last night went up in smoke when Sidney Crosby scored his first of the playoffs a dozen seconds into the third. The goal broke a 1-1 tie -- and sucked the life out of Ottawa.

The Senators were still reeling when Jordan Staal made it 3-1 only 1:18 later. Game, set, and, soon enough, match.

"Nine times out of 10 I get that," said Antoine Vermette, who had the puck hop over his stick in the neutral zone before it found Crosby moments before he scored the winner. "It just bounced weird."

How the Senators are bounced from the playoffs -- whether they go meekly or put up a fight -- is all that's left to be determined. Truth is, the sealing of the series will most be identified as the last two minutes of Game 2. But the Senators still had some life, they still had a chance, until Crosby pricked their balloon before many fans had even returned to their seats from the intermission.

"I should have played it with my hand, or dropped to a knee, or swung lower," said Vermette.

"I knew he was coming. I was in a defensive position, but the puck just bounced. That's hockey, I guess. We've got to live with it."

Only forever, which is eternity minus two or four more days than the Senators will live this season.

STARTS AND STOPS

Never before has Stuntman Stu's pre-game announcement of "scratch from your lineups" been greeted with such roars. First, when Gary Roberts (groin) was listed as one, and a little later when it was noticed Daniel Alfredsson wasn't. The "Alfie" chants started almost immediately ... Alfredsson, who was playing his 100th playoff game, skated from the bench to the back of the Senators' net to retrieve the puck after the final buzzer. "I thought I'd get it, (for a souvenir) of the 100th game," he said. "I don't know if I'll keep it." ... The Penguins mostly shrugged when asked about the large, controversial mural -- erected outside the dressing rooms -- of them sending the Senators to Round 2 with the good-luck handshake last season. Coach Michel Therrien said he would not use it as a motivational tool in his pre-game speech. "We don't need a big picture to remember last year," said Therrien. "We remember." ... One of, if not THE best hit of the game, came from an unsuspected source. Dean McAmmond stunned and staggered the much taller Evgeni Malkin, driving a shoulder into the Penguins star at the Ottawa blue line in the first.

BETWEEN PERIODS

As the only member of his line that brought two good legs to the game, Nick Foligno not only scored but soared alongside Jason Spezza and Alfredsson. Not only was it his best performance as an NHLer, but Foligno may have been Ottawa's top forward on the night. "It was the best feeling in the world," Foligno said of his goal. "It was great they gave me the opportunity (on the big line) and I showed them I can do it. Now I've got to continue to do it." He'll likely be a Top 6 forward for the Senators for some time ... There are now 300 people (Pitts-Burgers?) and counting who won't be putting Cheapseats on their Christmas card list. Of all the X-rated (and mostly pointless) hate e-mails we've received from STEALtown, one (yes, just one) struck us as semi-clever. "Gary Roberts doesn't wear a watch," stated Whateverhisnamewas. "He decides what time it is." Alas, Father Time told Roberts his groin was sore, and the Great Playoff Warrior was unable to suit up ... Playing an outstanding defensive game was Chris Phillips, but that's nothing new at this time of year ... Effective stickwork by Malkin and Jordan Staal more than an hour before the opening faceoff. They fished out from the ceiling rafters the "keep it up" ball a group of Penguins were playing with.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM....

The referees put away their whistles early, and Mike Commodore had to be grateful on a second-period shift in which he could have probably been given four penalties. Then there was the great boards battle between Crosby and Anton Volchenkov a little earlier. It ended with Crosby cross-checking Volchenkov to the ice, right in front of ref Mike Leggo. Instead of raising his arm as expected, Leggo motioned that the puck had been gloved ahead or some such thing. Crosby wasn't so grateful, lipping Volchenkov, then Leggo. Go figure ... Sign of the night: 'Mal kin - noun - An untidy dirty woman.' Sure enough, that, or a variation, is what you'll find in the dictionary ... Any speculation that Alfredsson's injury might be to his hip, ribs, ankle, neck or head ended when the knee brace man was called in to fit him with a new piece of equipment ... With his playoff play, Shean Donovan should have earned himself a contract with the Senators for next season ... Can the Senators come back and win this series? "Why not?" asked Martin Gerber. There's not enough room to list the reasons.


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