Senators blow yet another lead in loss to Devils

If you haven’t heard it before, here it is again: don’t ever, ever, turn off the TV or leave the building early when the Ottawa Senators are playing.

Senators blow yet another lead in loss to Devils
Matt Puempel. (Julie Oliver/OttawaCitizen)

NEWARK, New Jersey – If you haven’t heard it before, here it is again: Don’t ever, ever, turn off the TV or leave the building early when the Ottawa Senators are playing.

In yet another wild, wacky, and totally unpredictable contest, the Ottawa Senators lost 5-4, in a shootout to the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils put the finishing touches on the victory when Zack Parise, Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique all beat Senators goaltender Alex Auld in the shootout. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza beat Devils netminder Johan Hedberg in the shootout, but Hedberg stopped David Rundblad to clinch the victory.

Yet the shootout was only a small part of the story.

“It ended up being two games in one, by the end of the night,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean.

How about three games in one or four games in one?

The Senators stormed were ahead 3-0 midway through the game on goals from Milan Michalek, Nick Foligno and Daniel Alfredsson. They chased Devils starting goaltender Martin Brodeur after the first period, in favour of Hedberg. The Senators were cruising to an apparent easy win.

The Senators then collapsed, allowing Zach Parise, late in the second, and Dainius Zubrus, early in the third, to score shorthanded. Mattias Tedenby and Ilya Kovalchuk then scored 37 seconds apart midway through the third period, a stunning, impressive rally to take a 4-3 lead. Along the way, the Senators also lost veteran defenceman Sergei Gonchar to an upper body injury. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury, but he’s not expected to be back for Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Place, meaning that Matt Carkner will be inserted into the lineup.

Just when all appeared lost for the Senators, however, Jesse Winchester tied the game yet again with only five seconds left in regulation, with Auld on the bench for an extra skater.

Considering the circumstances, a shootout finish was a fitting conclusion.

It left conflicting emotions in the Senators dressing room.

“We scrambled to push it overtime, but we’re definitely feeling pretty empty right now,” said Winchester.

“We’re happy with getting a point, but we feel like we let one slip away,” said Foligno. “That’s two games in a row we’re not happy with the outcome. “We’ve got to find a way to make sure we get those wins.”

The Senators blew a third period lead in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals Wednesday.

While the Senators have experienced success in rallying from behind in the third period three times this season, MacLean says trying to protect a late lead is a different animal and “that part of our learning curve needs more time.”

It also left Auld without a win this season. Starting for the first time since Nov. 20 and seeing his first action since Nov. 26, Auld was sharp early, easily outplaying a shaky-looking Brodeur who kicked out fat rebounds leading to the goals by Michalek and Foligno.

Yet when the Devils rallied, Auld couldn’t hold them off.

“It’s tough,” he said. “There have been some weird situations and some strange games, but I’ve got to find a way to be even better and make those saves. It’s tough, but there are no excuses in not playing a lot. I have to be able to come in and contribute and give the team wins and that’s my job to make sure (MacLean) has confidence in playing me. You do that by getting wins.”

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GAME FILE

WHY THEY LOST: The Senators blew it, plain and simple. They had the Devils on the ropes, leading 3-0 in the second period, but allowed New Jersey to storm back. It’s small consolation, but they picked up a point thanks to Jesse Winchester’s goal with five seconds left in regulation.

STUD: Johan Hedberg, Devils. The Senators couldn’t get that next goal to put the game out of reach. Hedberg, who replaced starting goaltending Martin Brodeur after the first period, was rock solid, allowing only Daniel Alfredsson’s 5-on-3 power play goal and Winchester’s last second tally. He also outduelled Auld in the shootout, stopping David Rundblad with the final shot of the game.

DUD: Jason Spezza, Senators. The power play is supposed to be an advantage, but a pair of ghastly turnovers by Spezza allowed the Devils to score back-to-back shorthanded goals to flip the momentum. This comes after Spezza was a minus-three in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals.

STICK MAGNET: One day after taking an Alex Ovechkin spear in the stomach, Chris Neil receives a Petr Sykora stick between the eyes in the first period. This time, there was punishment, as Sykora was given a double-minor. Neil returned to the game after the blood on his face was cleaned up.

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