A 'losing attitude'

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

Jason Spezza, arms crossed, lowered his head a bit and took a deep breath.

Hanging in the air was the question that will be asked over and over in the next few days and probably until the fall, when the Ottawa Senators start the next NHL season in Sweden.

What went wrong?

It will be asked today when the 2007-08 Senators gather in the dressing room for one last time to clean out their lockers.

What happened to a team that got off to such a soaring start this season, 15-2, only to wind up here, feeling the sting of the back of the Pittsburgh Penguins' hand, swept aside in four straight games.

What went wrong?

What happened to the offensive powerhouse that managed just five goals in four games against the Penguins?

"I don't know when things soured," said Spezza in the moments after the Senators' 3-1 elimination loss last night. "There was a lot of negativity around this team, from the outside, from inside the room," he said. "It gets frustrating when you lose games. That kind of losing attitude took a toll on us a little bit. I don't know exactly when it started.

"When you lose games (the atmosphere) sours. It's a lot less pleasant place to be when you lose hockey games. We feel the pressure when we lose and we want to get out of it. It's disappointing. When you're down bodies like we were and lacking a bit of confidence, it's even tougher.

STARS STYMIED

"You have to give (the Penguins) credit. They played well and we didn't."

Spezza and linemate Dany Heatley missed captain Daniel Alfredsson, with whom they were reunited last night (Alfredsson confirming he missed the first two games of the series with a torn MCL).

Spezza and Heatley were held without a goal in the series and have just one playoff goal between them going back to last year's final, a total of nine games.

"They limited our chances and we didn't really make something out of nothing, which we usually do a pretty good job of doing. We just didn't score goals. We'll shoulder the blame," said Spezza.

"To have one assist in four games, I'm pretty disappointed in myself. It's a frustrating time. You're trying, but it seems like you're spinning the tires. It's frustrating, but there's no other way to explain it. We get the credit when we win and we have to shoulder the load and we're going to hear about it the next little bit."

There was no lame Spartan this time around at the beginning of the game, just the same result at the end.

The Senators and their fans will have ample time now to try to figure out where it all unravelled this season, a coach fired and the goaltender who helped them to the final last season rendered, ultimately, irrelevant.

The Senators were swept aside by a young Penguins team that had too much of everything for them: Skill, speed, composure and special teams.

The Penguins have a bunch of kids who look like they're getting their playoff legs underneath them after being awestruck last year against Ottawa and, as star Sidney Crosby put it, playing like "the Senators had eight men on the ice."

It always looked like the Penguins had seven on the ice in this series.

The Senators hardly challenged the Pens physically or put them in a position where they had to play from behind, holding the lead a scant four minutes and 28 seconds.

FREE PASS

The Penguins don't have to worry about being banged up coming out of their dominating sweep. Apart from the ancient Gary Roberts coming down with a groin injury (like you couldn't see that coming for the old guy), they appear to be pretty healthy, thanks to the Senators' numerous fly-bys.

The Super Kids pretty much had a free pass.

Meanwhile, for the Senators, the search for answers will continue.

Maybe the answer is simple. Maybe the end of last year and the start of this season were aberrations.

Maybe these Senators just aren't that good.


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