Senators: Going to the net pays dividends
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The Ottawa coaches have talked about it, shown video, pleaded, prodded and done what they can short of getting on the ice and shooting the puck toward Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Still, the Senators struggled to score for more than a game and a half.
All of Game 1 Wednesday, they took aim at the Penguins' net. Twenty-four times, Fleury made saves. Another 21, Ottawa shooters missed the net. An 0-for-7 game on the power play, including two 5-on-3 opportunities for a total of 1:48, couldn't lead to a goal.
Last night, Ottawa finally started scoring -- but, for the most part, it wasn't from the players who usually are counted on, and it wasn't enough.
The Senators came back from a three-goal deficit but lost Game 2, 5-3, at Mellon Arena.
They will go home for Game 3 Monday down, 2-0, in this best-of-seven series and with players such as Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley looking for their first goal. Spezza, Ottawa's leading scorer this season, still is looking for his first point.
In Game 2, the Senators got goals from Shean Donovan and Cody Bass -- hardly names that come to mind as offensive threats -- as well as Cory Stillman on a power play.
Coach Bryan Murray saw something from Donovan and Bass he would like to see from his big guns.
"We get goals from guys that go to the net. On two occasions, Donovan and Bass went to the net," Murray said. "Cory scored on one of the power plays we had. That's what we have to do.
"But there's no question we have to get some goals from some other people."
It didn't help that Ottawa got outshot, 54-30, and a spent five minutes short-handed in the first period.
Ottawa's first goal of the series -- after 91 minutes, 25 seconds -- came when Donovan, who had five goals in the regular season and none since Jan. 10, was at the crease and converted a pass from Chris Neil along the right boards at 11:25 of the second period to make it 3-1. It was the Senators' 14th shot.
Stillman, who had 24 goals this season, closed the gap on a similar play from Heatley during a power play, making it 3-2 at 16:11 of the second period.
There was one more improbable scorer. Bass, who had two goals in 21 games with Ottawa, scored from just in front after Randy Robitaille carried the puck down the right side and fed Bass at 8:51 of the third period.
That was it. The Penguins scored twice in the final two minutes of regulation.
"Your goal-scorers need to score, yes, but, if your fourth-line guys can score, it gives you a chance to win every night," Stillman said.
A chance that last night wasn't enough to push Ottawa into a tie in the series.
Even without second-leading scorer Daniel Alfredsson, who is doubtful for the series because of injury, along with forwards Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly, Ottawa would seem to have enough scoring depth to give the Penguins more of a challenge.
"We have to find a way to get more bodies to the net, and, when we get them there, to find a way to hit the net more often, in particular on the power play," Murray said. "Until we score some goals, that will be the question of the series."
It's not just the first two games of this first-round playoff series.
In three of the Senators' final four regular-season games -- the exception being an 8-2 win against Toronto, which did not make the postseason -- they got a total of one goal despite averaging 28 shots against playoff-bound teams.
A drought, hot goaltenders, something is ailing the Ottawa offense.
"Call it whatever you want," Heatley said. "You go through streaks. Sometimes the puck's going in for you and sometimes it's not. There's no scientific formula."
The math, though, adds up to a huge minus if Ottawa can't win at home, and winning would be a lot simpler if the top offensive threats start scoring.
Martin Lapointe, who was moved to the top line with Spezza and Heatley for Game 2, isn't willing to be picky about who gets the goals.
"Those guys really stepped up tonight," he said of the unlikely scorers. "That's the positive we can take out of it.
"We've got some injured guys here. We all knew that some guys had to step up. They got some results for us."
First Published April 12, 2008 12:00 am