Senators Notebook: Ottawa facing excruciating task of trying to come back from 0-2 hole

OTTAWA -- They are numbing numbers.

The regular-season darlings known as the Senators have become identified as postseason failures because of such facts and figures as these:

They have never come back from an 0-2 deficit in the postseason.

Not from 1998 to 2001, when they fell behind two games to none in four consecutive series.

Not in 2007, at the end of a playoff ride that began against these same Penguins, concluding with a two-loss start en route to losing the Stanley Cup finals in five games to the Mighty Ducks.

So the Penguins' 2-0 lead heading into tomorrow night's Game 3 in Scotiabank Place seems a pretty positive digit for them and against the Senators.

"We're all professionals here," said Ottawa newcomer Martin Lapointe, a two-time Cup winner with Detroit among his many stops. "Keep our heads up. And go back to Ottawa with a positive attitude."

They were outshot by almost double, 54-30.

They were accumulating penalty minutes three times greater than the Penguins, 26-8.

They were short-handed six times, though Cory Stillman thought it was even more.

"I thought we killed too many penalties to get a chance," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said. But, he added of the series and the Senators' dread deficit returning to Ottawa ice, "I have to believe that they will play well at home."

50 saves, one loss

Martin Gerber was the defensive star for a second consecutive game for the Senators.

His 31 saves Wednesday in a 4-0, Game 1 loss was his personal playoff record. Two nights later, he nearly doubled it -- facing 54 shots, stopping 50, standing on his thinning-hair head.

"I mean, it doesn't matter how ...," Gerber said of his busy night. "You lose, you lose. You have to move on. It's disappointing."

"Gerbs," Jason Spezza added, "was phenomenal."

Ray Emery was the Senators' star last spring, transforming into a fortress in net and helping to prod the Senators to the Stanley Cup finals. He fell out of favor, his performance fell, and Murray awarded the goalkeeping duties to Gerber, a former flameout in Carolina, where Cam Ward replaced him in a playoff run, and elsewhere. Gerber still owns only one playoff victory in 10 postseason games, but these past two defeats can hardly be tagged on him.

"He proved it," Stillman said of Gerber's Game 2. "He kept us in the game. Especially when you allow 50 shots. The more he plays, the better he gets."

Speaking their mind

After yesterday morning's practice, Murray sent his Senators -- and maybe Penguins statisticians -- a message.

"You can't take nine penalties" like Friday. "And you can't give up 54 shots, if in fact that was the right number. I'm sure it was close to that.

"I thought 80 percent of our guys played hard and well. There were some that still had some turnovers and situations that we can't have, if they continue, to win."

• Spezza's undisclosed injury, which caused him to miss "a little bit of time" Friday, shouldn't prevent him from playing tomorrow, Murray said.

• Murray is prepared to take a long look at a handful of minor-league Binghamton players who may work into the Game 3 lineup.

• The Penguins benefited from home-ice line changes, matching the lines of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the Senators third- and fourth-liners at Mellon Arena, but Murray expects to alter the matchups in the next two contests in Ottawa.

Bottom of the order

The top unit of Spezza, Dany Heatley and new linemate Lapointe went scoreless, though Heatley had a hand in Stillman's power-play goal in the middle of Ottawa's three Friday. But the other lines picked up the scoring, notably the grinders toward the end of the bench.

Fourth-liner Cody Bass and ex-Penguin Shean Donovan each finished with a goal and a plus-1 rating, while ex-Penguin Randy Robitaille and sturdy Chris Neil also finished with an assist and a plus-1 each among the forwards. Neil played a particularly strong game, gathering 2 shots, 4 hits and 14 penalty minutes in 13 minutes, 22 seconds of ice time.

"We got some big goals from different guys," said a still-scoreless Spezza. "We showed a lot of character."

First Published April 13, 2008 4:00 AM


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