Senators lose fourth straight game

Craig Anderson returned, but the Ottawa Senators’ free fall continues.

Senators lose fourth straight game
Goaltender Scott Clemmensen #30 of the Florida Panthers gives up a rebound as he makes a save on a shot by Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators at the BB&T Center on April 7, 2013 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. – Craig Anderson returned, but the Ottawa Senators’ free fall continues.
The long road trip south has been accompanied by a southward slide in the standings.
The losing streak hit four games Sunday as the Senators dropped a 2-1 decision to the Florida Panthers, the closest thing to a free Bingo spot on the NHL schedule.
The Senators did enough to win on most nights, outshooting the Panthers 41-17, but Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen was outstanding and the Senators’ power play was ineffective, ending up 0-for-6 with the man advantage.
The winning goal came from Dmitry Kulikov on the power play with 9:14 remaining.
“Overall, I felt as a team we played a pretty good game, we had the momentum for most of the night, put a lot of pucks at the net, but it was one of those nights where we ran into a hot goaltender,” said Anderson returning to the net for the first time since spraining his ankle Feb. 21.
“Give Scott credit where credit is due. He made some big stops and he stole them the game.”
If the game against Florida had been a “must win” according to Senators coach Paul MacLean, Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning has become even more critical.
MacLean did his best to inspire confidence afterwards, saying it was the best game the team had played in some time.
The Senators, however, will be having nightmares about the chances upon chances that didn’t end up in the net. Kyle Turris, mired in a nine-game goal scoring drought, thought he might have scored in the second period, with the game deadlocked 1-1. After video review, however, officials deemed that the puck didn’t cross the goal line before Clemmensen kicked it out.
The Senators thoroughly outplayed the Panthers through the opening two periods — leading 26-10 on the shot clock — but the game was deadlocked 1-1.
After Cory Conacher opened the scoring with his first goal as a Senator in the first period, following a pretty set-up from fellow rookie linemates Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg, the Senators appeared be on the verge of taking control.
Anderson was allowed to work his way into the game, facing his first shot 4:45 into the game and not forced to make a tough save until almost 12 minutes had passed.
However, a momentary lapse and a bad line change early in the second period set the stage for Marcel Goc to tie the game, deflecting a Tomas Fleischmann shot past Anderson.
Suddenly, the Panthers had life.
The Senators pushed and pushed to take the lead and Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was everywhere inside the Panthers zone. Yet for all the close calls — Chris Neil and Kyle Turris were among those shaking their heads at missed chances — the Senators couldn’t bury the puck past Clemmensen.
The Panthers (should have) represented the ideal landing spot for Anderson’s return. He had a career record of 9-0-1 with a 0.89 goals against average against them.
Florida is dead last in the Eastern Conference standings, battling Calgary and Colorado to receive the best odds at the first overall draft selection in June.
The Panthers are the only team to have suffered more injuries than the Senators and the organization has been forced to push youngsters into the lineup sooner than they wanted. Seven players have made their NHL debuts with Florida this season.
MacLean sent several loud messages to the Senators before the game.
As frustrated as MacLean was at Friday’s 4-2 defeat to the Buffalo Sabres, he didn’t cancel Saturday’s day off. Many players took advantage to play golf or otherwise recharge the batteries in the sunshine.
“You look at the big picture,” MacLean said before the game. “We’re playing 48 games in 90-something days and the game is more important than the practices. We’re in a place where we have some time to get some rest and we’re trying to take advantage of that. At the same time, it’s a results-oriented business and we need some results.”
Leading up to the game, MacLean sent plenty of messages to the players that it was time to wake up.
“The NHL moves at an ever-increasing pace and if you don’t go with it, you get left behind,” he said. “The game has gone to another level and we haven’t gone with it. We haven’t played near hard enough to win our last three games.”
The Senators played hard enough Sunday to win most games. But as MacLean says, it’s a results-oriented business and after four straight losses, the pressure is mounting on the Senators.

GAME FILE

CHEERS

Scott Clemmensen, Panthers. He stopped 40 of 41 shots. It was only his third victory of the season. He looked like an All-Star Sunday.

JEERS

Senators special teams. The power play went 0-for-3. The penalty killing, normally a strength, yielded the game winning goal to Dmitry Kulikov with 9:14 remaining — the lone power play the Panthers received.

WHY THEY LOST

Clemmenson and an ineffective power play. Expect MacLean to be working over and over again on the Senators play with the man advantage Monday in Tampa.

MILESTONE FOR GUDBRANSON

Sunday marked the 100th game of Erik Gudbranson’s NHL career. From his late start due to an off-season training injury to the injuries all around him, it hasn’t been a great season for the Ottawa native, drafted third overall by the Panthers in 2010. Gudbranson did, however, dodge a suspension after the NHL reviewed his boarding major and game misconduct for hitting Washington’s Martin Erat into the boards Saturday.

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