PITTSBURGH — GM Bryan Murray dropped by the dressing room to deliver the Senators a message before they flew off — possibly into the sunset — Wednesday afternoon.
Be yourselves, he told them.
“I made a point to the guys this morning that we’ve been more interested in running around and hitting people than just playing the way we normally play,” said Murray, whose team is one loss from seeing its season end. “Pittsburgh is a good team. We’re a good team. We’re in the playoffs. I’m watching other series. Colorado is competing really well with San Jose ... that’s what I think our team is capable of doing.”
The Senators have played better in Pittsburgh this series. At Mellon Arena, they won a game and lost another by one goal. In Ottawa, with a chance to put a stranglehold on the Penguins, they lost Game 3 by two goals and were at their worst in Tuesday’s 7-4 defeat that leaves them on the brink of elimination.
“Two games (in Pittsburgh) we played okay then (Tuesday) we just went out to crucify people rather than play smart and keep the game simple and allow us to compete in the third period,” said Murray.
“I think we got caught up in trying to be more physical than we’d normally be, that’s all. And when we gave up the third goal, we lost total focus for awhile. Then we finally get one back, and get a second one, and then the damn glass falls out when we have a great slot play. It was because of a hit, there’s nothing anybody can do about it, but it’s just what seems to be the case right now.”
It was a hit by Matt Cullen, on Brooks Orpik, and it was Daniel Alfredsson teed up in the slot, aiming at pulling the Senators to within one.
“I had a lot of space,” said Alfredsson. “That’s the way it goes.”
Asked if he has seen anything that gives him hope of a comeback, Murray was blunt.
“Not (Tuesday) night,” he said. “We gave up too many easy opportunities to the other team.
“It’s easy to blame the goaltenders all the time, but when you give breakaways and tap-in goals and slot shots to them, it’s pretty tough for any goaltender to look like a star.”
Part of the problem were the struggles of Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips. The team’s shutdown defensive pairing couldn’t shut down. Volchenkov and Phillips were both minus-3, the result of being on the ice for each even-strength goal scored by Sidney Crosby’s line.
“As a pair they have to be better, they have to be more physical,” said coach Cory Clouston. “I don’t think Volchie had a hit (he didn’t) and that’s very unusual.
“But it’s the offensive mistakes that are creating the turnovers that’s allowing them to create offence. If we can eliminate the blind passes in the slot, the turnovers at our blue line, we’re not going to give them near the opportunities.”