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Senators have simple goal

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
There are many truths about the game of hockey, none more simpler or basic than this: If you can't score, you can't win.

For the Ottawa Senators, it's become a growing concern, especially in the wake of Wednesday's 4-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opener of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series. Game 2 goes Friday night at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

Take out an 8-2 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs last Thursday and the Senators have been all but running on empty offensively. Counting Wednesday's result, they've been shut out three times in their last five games and didn't score until late in the third period of their regular-season ending 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.

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"Until we score some goals, that will be the question of the series," Senators head coach/general manager Bryan Murray admitted after his team's off-day practice earlier this afternoon at the building known as the Igloo.

In an attempt to generate more offence, Murray did some line-juggling during practice today, most notably moving gritty veteran winger Martin Lapointe onto the team's top line with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. Randy Robitaille filled that spot in Game 1.

"I know that (Lapointe) will go up and down the wing, be real solid, positionally be good and he has a little bit of a physical element to him," said Murray. "The way (the Penguins) were matching and going, I thought this was a change that might help."

While Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 26 shots in posting the Game 1 shutout, the Senators likely had at least as many attempts blocked by Pittsburgh defenders or miss the target completely.

"I thought we had a lot of chances. It's finding ways to finish them," said forward Dany Heatley. "We have to find ways to finish and score goals. It starts with getting pucks through. We had a lot of stuff get blocked (Wednesday) night and missed the net a lot.

"You can't score if you don't give yourself a chance to score."

Most notably, the Senators came up empty on a pair of 5-on-3 power-play advantages with the score still at 2-0. Other than Cory Stillman ringing a shot from the point off the post, one of the National Hockey League's highest-scoring teams fired blanks.

"You go through streaks," said Heatley of the Senators' recent scoring woes. "Sometimes the puck's going in for you and sometimes it's not.

"I thought very easily, on the power play, we could have had three or four goals. But if you don't get the bounce or you get (shots) blocked, that's how it goes."

With captain Daniel Alfredsson likely sidelined for the series with knee and upper body injuries, there is growing pressure on Heatley and Jason Spezza to produce more offensively. But Stillman believes it'll take a collective effort for the Senators to break out.

"They've got to play well," said Stillman. "But then again, it's a team game and you've got to get some chances from your first line all the way through to your fourth and if your defencemen can chip in and score a goal or make a big play, it makes a difference, too.

"Obviously, there's pressure on (Heatley and Spezza) to score, that's what they're here for. But if they play the game right way and not force things when they get an opportunity, with the skill they have, they will score."

Despite the discouraging start to the series, the Senators remained in good spirits at practice today. Then again, turn the tables Friday and they'll come home with the desired split on the road, and with the next two games in the series next Monday and Wednesday at Scotiabank Place.

"I felt like we were right there (in Game 1)," said goaltender Martin Gerber, who kept the Senators close until late in the third. "We didn't get that bounce we really needed to get things really rolling. Even going into the last (period), I felt like all we needed was one good bounce and then things might change."

Added Murray: "We lost one game. That's what we've done, we've lost one game. We'll find a way to make a couple of adjustments, I hope, and play stronger and better (Friday) night."

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