Same old song
Sens bounced by Leafs for third consecutive postseasonPosted: Wednesday May 15, 2002 6:41 PM
TORONTO (AP) -- The Ottawa Senators couldn't get out of Toronto fast enough following their latest playoff meltdown.
In departing Toronto's Air Canada Center after losing a decisive Game 7 in the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals Tuesday night, the Senators were greeted by a mad scene of celebrating Maple Leafs fans, who left much of the city's downtown in gridlock well into Wednesday morning.
Eliminated by Toronto for the third straight postseason, the Senators will spend their summer again haunted by chants of "Go Leafs Go."
It wasn't supposed to be this way for a supposedly more poised Ottawa team attempting to shake its reputation of having an inability to win a big game.
Instead, the Senators reverted to wilting form in blowing a 3-2 series lead against the banged-up and weary Maple Leafs, who were missing six regulars, including captain Mats Sundin.
"We didn't get it done," Senators Wade Redden said following Tuesday's 3-0 loss. "You can look back at a number of things. We had them up 2-1 at home, Game 6 at home, and we couldn't, you know.
"I guess that's something we've got to look at. When you've got them by the throat, you've got to make sure you get them down."
The Senators, after winning the series opener 5-0, kept letting the Leafs off the mat.
They couldn't bottle up Gary Roberts, who was prolific in scoring five goals -- including the Game 2 triple-overtime winner -- and 10 points. And they didn't have an answer for Alexander Mogilny, who provided the game-winning goals in Games 6 and 7.
The complexion of this heated series, between Ontario provincial rivals, turned 12 minutes into Game 6 after the Senators took a 2-0 lead before Toronto had a shot on goal.
Ottawa's Ricard Persson checked Tie Domi from behind, sending the gritty Maple Leafs forward headfirst into the boards. Domi sustained a deep gash on his forehead, and the Maple Leafs scored twice to tie it on the ensuing five-minute major penalty to Persson.
While the Maple Leafs never looked back, the Senators spent the next two days blaming the officials, inexplicably accusing Domi of taking a dive.
"If Domi had a little bit better balance, that wouldn't have happened. And I think we would've won the series," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "I think we've done a lot of great things in the playoffs here, and hopefully this is something we can learn from."
It was a curious reversal after the Maple Leafs criticized the officials for failing to call a similar penalty against Alfredsson, who scored the Game 5 winner seconds after he sent Toronto's Darcy Tucker crashing into the boards.
Senators coach Jacques Martin, whose job is once again considered on the line, can take part of the blame.
He did nothing to counter the presence of Roberts, who was continually left untouched and allowed to go to the front of the net. And Martin's monotone responses after each game seemed to reflect a Senators team that couldn't step up its level of play when it counted most.
The Senators are the only Canadian-based team to reach the postseason in each of the last six years. And yet they've never advanced past the second round, and are 0-2 in Game 7s.
A year ago, it was Ottawa's Sami Salo who said the Maple Leafs were more hungry in sweeping the Senators in the first round.
Redden wouldn't accept that this year.
"To say we didn't want it out there as much as them, it's just how the game went," Redden said. "I think we can be proud of ourselves what we did out there. That's about it."