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Five reasons Senators were eliminated from playoffs

by Chris Stevenson

The Ottawa Senators were the comeback story of the NHL this season.

They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the last day of the regular season after being 14 points out of a playoff spot on Feb. 10. Backed by the goaltending of undrafted Andrew Hammond, 27, the Senators rallied with a 23-4-4 record down the stretch.

Ottawa ran out of comebacks in the playoffs, digging a hole too deep in their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens, losing the first three games before eventually being eliminated in six.

Here are the five reasons the Senators were eliminated:

1. Lack of consistent effort -- The Senators scored the first goal of the game in the first three games of the series and lost them all. They couldn't find a way to get that next goal.

The Senators played strong first periods in those games, but couldn't sustain it and were badly outplayed in the second period, partly because they got themselves in penalty trouble. That's a big reason why they fell into a 3-0 hole. The Senators were outscored 6-2 in the second period of the first three games of the series.

Their failure to come up with anything close to a full-game effort in the early part of the series proved too much to overcome.

2. Carey Price -- The Canadiens goaltender had a 43-save shutout in Game 6 to eliminate the Senators.

Price has had his ups and downs against the Senators and gave up five goals in Ottawa's Game 5 win in Montreal to cut the Canadiens lead in the series to 3-2. The Senators did their best job of getting traffic in front of Price in that game.

Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said he could tell Price was going to bounce back with a big game.

"He was amazing for us, I think. Obviously (in Game 5), giving up five goals, not that it was his fault at all, being the competitor he is, he wasn't happy with it," Gallagher said. "You could just see him before the game, the look he had, the focus he had, he was going to put in a good performance."

The Senators put themselves in a tough spot by falling behind 3-0 in the series and having to win four straight against arguably the best goaltender in the League. The odds were Price was going to steal a game when the Canadiens needed it, and he did.

3. Too slow with the goalie change -- Hammond gave up seven goals in the first two games of the series and Senators coach Dave Cameron opted for veteran Craig Anderson for Game 3.

Hammond had certainly earned the right to start the playoffs with his outstanding play down the stretch.

"In this business, you ride the hot hand and Hammond was the hot hand at that time," Cameron said.

Cameron said he thought about changing goaltenders for Game 2. After the first game, Cameron said the coaching staff used a soccer analogy to describe Hammond's status.

"After Game 1, we gave Hammy the yellow card," Cameron said. "He had earned that (the chance to bounce back). I'm certainly not blaming that Game 2 loss on turning this series."

But some people might look at it that way.

Anderson gave up four goals in the four games he played and had a .972 save percentage.

It's easy to look back on it now and wonder if Cameron had put Anderson in for Game 2 -- a 2-1 loss in overtime where the winner beat Hammond between his right arm and body -- the Senators could have avoided that insurmountable 3-0 hole.

4. Mark Stone's injury -- Stone, a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the League's rookie of the year, was the Senators best forward down the stretch. He had 47 points in the last 46 games of the regular season and ranked second on the team in goals with 26.

Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban slashed Stone on the right wrist in the second period of Game 1 and Stone sustained a microfracture and ligament damage. Stone wasn't the same player after that.

He had four shot attempts in Game 1 and 10 the rest of the series. He didn't score a goal.

Stone had his wrist frozen before each game, but wasn't using it as an excuse.

"It's not great. It's not terrible though. Nothing was wrong with it that could have gotten worse by me playing," Stone said. "My thumb and index finger were numb. I still had good mobility and good strength. I felt like when I got out on the ice I was 100 percent."

Clearly he wasn't.

5. Lack of offense from their top players -- Senators No. 1 center Kyle Turris had one goal in the series and that came on the power play in the second period of Game 1.

Turris centered Stone and wing Clarke MacArthur and the top line combined for three goals in the series.

Wing Bobby Ryan had two goals in the series, snapping a 16-game streak without a goal, and they both came in a 5-1 win in Game 5.

The story wasn't much better down the lineup. The third line of Erik Condra with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Curtis Lazar had one goal in the series (though Pageau had a goal disallowed because the whistle had blown in Game 6).

Defensemen Patrick Wiercioch and Erik Karlsson tied Stone and center Mike Zibanejad for the team scoring lead in the series with four points.

There simply wasn't enough production up front to get the job done against the Canadiens.

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