OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators had no one to blame but themselves.
The Senators playoff hopes came to a crashing halt Saturday night in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, eliminating them from the Eastern Conference quarter-final series 4-2. Ottawa got the perfect start they were looking for and jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the experience of the defending Stanley Cup champions combined with the Senators sitting back a bit too much proved to be devastating.
"It's tough losing that way when you have a lead like that," said Ottawa's Jason Spezza.
Down 3-1, the Senators forced Game 6 after winning 4-3 in triple overtime Thursday and felt their chances of forcing a Game 7 were pretty good.
"We started great, but we knew they weren't going to give up," said Ottawa's Mike Fisher. "Overtime it can always go either way. So we put ourselves in a position to force a Game 7. One goal away and the guys didn't give up and battled hard, but it was too little."
Much had been made of the Senators injuries as they were playing without Alex Kovalev, Filip Kuba and Milan Michalek - key players in the lineup - and Daniel Alfredsson admitted Saturday that he had been playing with a torn abdominal muscle.
"We can't use that as an excuse," said Fisher. "Pittsburgh's a great team and they deserve credit."
At 37, Alfredsson knows he may not get too many more playoff opportunities and admits this loss is difficult to digest at this time.
"You know in the league today just how hard it is to make the playoffs," said Alfredsson. "Going into these playoffs who knows if you're going to be back in the playoffs again. That's why it felt so good playing so good as we did in Game 5 and then today again I thought we were going to get it to Game 7, but unfortunately we couldn't."
Like Alfredsson, Chris Phillips has experienced a lot of the Senators playoff experiences and admits it's hard to keep coming up short.
"I've had a lot of chances and come up empty handed," said Phillips. "We've given it a good run a couple of times, but it just shows it's a tough trophy to win and hard to come by."
Despite the loss the Senators were still able to look at some of the positives from the series including the way the way they played in Game 5 as well as the development of some of their younger players.
"We got a lot of young guys who stepped it up in the playoffs," said Phillips. "A lot of young guys that show a lot of promise. Hopefully with the group of guys we have we can do something."