OTTAWA - The presence of Daniel Alfredsson in the Ottawa Senators' lineup Monday night couldn't prevent another loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But Senators general manager and coach Bryan Murray said it should stop anyone from questioning his captain's desire to bring a winner to Ottawa.
"It's unbelievable," Murray said after Alfredsson returned to the Senators' lineup for the first time since suffering undisclosed injuries in an April 3 game.
"I was told probably six weeks minimum when he was first injured in Toronto. He came to me this morning and asked about playing. And I said 'think about it, we'll talk about it. But I don't want you to play if it's going to be a long-term damage to you.' He came back this afternoon and he said he wanted to play.
"Obviously, he wasn't at full speed, you can see that. But if anyone ever questions Daniel Alfredsson's character or anything else again, I think I might approach them somehow in an unkind manner - let's put it that way."
Unfortunately for Ottawa, the night didn't come with a feel-good ending.
The Senators gave up three third-period goals and suffered a 4-1 defeat before a sold-out crowd of 19,961 and they now trail the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series 3-0. Game 4 is in Ottawa on Wednesday.
"It's unfortunate, obviously," Senators left-winger Cory Stillman said. "It would have been a better story line with him coming back and us winning. He came back and gave us a lift, but there's 20 other guys, too."
And some of those guys didn't come through, is what Stillman suggested.
Alfredsson was hurt on a hard hit by Mark Bell of the Maple Leafs and is said to be suffering from upper-body and knee injuries.
He skated for the first time on his own Sunday night and didn't take part in Monday's pre-game skate, but when word came out afterward, it provided a shot in the arm to a team that was getting desperate for a victory to get back into the series.
Alfredsson received a loud ovation from the crowd when he appeared in warmup and, when he appeared for his first shift alongside centre Jason Spezza and left-winger Nick Foligno, he was given a standing ovation.
It was his 100th career game in the post-season, all with Ottawa.
"It obviously gave us a lift," Spezza said. "We started the game well, the crowd was in to it. It showed his character and we had good energy because of it early on."
Alfredsson appeared to labour when skating and shied away from high-traffic areas, but still managed to play more than 17 minutes (17:08), even taking the ice as the lone forward when the Senators were two-men short.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "The crowd really helped, too. I made my decision to play and I (knew) the adrenalin coming from the crowd was going to help me."
It didn't help Ottawa, however. After Foligno and Maxime Talbot traded second-period goals, the Penguins struck twice in the opening 90 seconds of the third and added a power-play goal and the Senators now find themselves on the brink of elimination.
"I thought we played pretty good the first 40 minutes," Alfredsson said. "Obviously, we lose the game early in the third. We took too many penalties.
"I thought we had them after two. We were doing a lot of good things. A tough way to lose."