|Captain Daniel Alfredsson says the Senators can't get down on themselves, even if they're facing a 3-1 deficit in their Eastern Conference quarter-final series against the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
History suggests it's an almost impossibly steep mountain to climb.
But the Senators still firmly believe it's something that can be done, even if the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are on the verge of closing out their Eastern Conference quarter-final series and handed underdog Ottawa a disheartening 7-4 setback at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night.
Now the Penguins, with a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven affair, can wrap it up in the friendly confines of Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh on Thursday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). Some 234 teams in National Hockey League history have dug themselves that kind of hole in a playoff series. Only 21 have emerged from it, a success rate of less than nine per cent.
But don't tell any of that to the Senators, who refuse to believe it's over until it's over.
"Being down 3-1 is a tough position to be in to come back," admitted Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
. "It doesn’t happen a lot. You just know that if you don’t give it your all, it’s not going to happen. We’re going to go in there (Thursday) and it’s one game. All we can do is try to bring it back here to Ottawa and then take it from there.
"But our focus is just one game. Do not start thinking about what ifs or not. You’ve got to focus and prepare like it’s the biggest game you ever played and, hopefully, we can come out with a win. It’s pretty simple but at the same time, when you’re down 3-1 and (think about) how we played yesterday, it’s easy to get down on yourself. We can’t have that happen."
"Teams have come from behind. This team has won 11 games in a row and had adversity throughout the season. We can draw on that as well. We have to make sure we’re taking it one shift at a time. The old clichés really fall into play right now. One shift at a time, one play at a time, one period at a time and just play right. If we can do those types of things, we’ll give ourselves a real good chance to be back here for Game 6." - Cory Clouston
Senators head coach Cory Clouston admits it's a cliché — and there are many that can and will be applied in this situation — but it really does start with surviving the Penguins' first elimination attempt on Thursday night.
"Teams have come from behind," he said earlier today. "This team has won 11 games in a row and had adversity throughout the season. We can draw on that as well. We have to make sure we’re taking it one shift at a time.
"The old clichés really fall into play right now. One shift at a time, one play at a time, one period at a time and just play right. If we can do those types of things, we’ll give ourselves a real good chance to be back here for Game 6."
The trick in this circumstance is to not spend too much time staring at the mountain in front of them. The longer you do, the higher the climb starts to seem.
"We’ve put ourselves in a big hole, but we’ve just got to focus on winning the next one," said Senators centre Jason Spezza
. "Our next game is the most important. We don’t want our year to end."
Mellon Arena does happen to be the place where the Senators have played their best hockey in this series, including a 5-4 victory in the series opener. The Penguins have run off three straight wins since then, including Sunday's wide-open affair at Scotiabank Place that produced eight goals in the second period alone.
Clouston agreed the Senators need to get back to the tighter-checking style of game that was featured in the first three games of this opening-round matchup.
"Every game is different," he said. "We’ve had some wide-open games, we’ve had some real tight-checking games. We just have to play our game tomorrow. That’s all our focus is — one more night, we’re going to play our game and we’ll take it from there.
"Being down 3-1 is a tough position to be in to come back. "It doesn’t happen a lot. You just know that if you don’t give it your all, it’s not going to happen. We’re going to go in there (Thursday) and it’s one game. All we can do is try to bring it back here to Ottawa and then take it from there ... You’ve got to focus and prepare like it’s the biggest game you ever played and, hopefully, we can come out with a win." - Daniel Alfredsson
"We’ve turned pucks over way too often and the (Penguins) made good of it. They capitalized on their chances. If we don’t learn (to fix) that real quick, it’s going to be over."
Added goaltender Brian Elliott: "We all have something to prove. Not just from (Sunday) night, but from the previous games as well. We proved in the first game that we can win and, as a team, we just have to show that again."
This is also a streaky team that truly rode the rollercoaster this season, from incredible highs to the lowest of lows. In other words, anything can happen now and the three-game losing skid the Senators are currently stuck on could change real quick.
"We’ve been a team that, for whatever reason, could put together long winning streaks and had some bad losing streaks," said Spezza. "It gives up hope that we can string together a few games, but we’re not looking that far ahead. We’re just worrying about winning the next one and giving ourselves a chance."
Of course, finding a way to control Sidney Crosby might also help in that area. The Penguins superstar has racked up 11 points in the series so far, including two goals and two assists in Sunday's triumph.
"We’ve got to do a better job of being in his face," said veteran Senators defenceman Chris Phillips
. "He’s proven to everybody and he’s proven to myself that when you’ve got your stick an inch or two away from his stick, that’s not close enough. He can still make you pay. We just have to do a better job of when you have him, make sure you have him. Close isn’t good enough."Around the boards
Goaltender Pascal Leclaire saw his first career Stanley Cup playoff action Sunday night in relief of Elliott and he'd relish the chance for another shot in Game 5. "I'd like to get the chance to play, just like anybody else," he said. "It's the playoffs, it's the fun part of the year." ... The Senators cancelled a planned practice today and instead held off-ice workouts before heading off to Pittsburgh ... If there is indeed a Game 6, it'll be a 7 p.m. start Saturday at Scotiabank Place. Game 7, if necessary, is set for April 27 in Pittsburgh.