The Ottawa Senators are starting to see a ray of hope.
Now they’d like to take the next step forward and put an end to their longest winless streak in more than 11 years.
The next opportunity to end the seven-game skid comes Wednesday night at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., when the Senators hit the ice against the Florida Panthers and former coach Jacques Martin (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200).
For the Senators, the matchup with the Panthers comes one night after they battled back from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning, only to fall 4-3 in a shootout.
Technically, it’s not a loss, but it also isn’t the victory everyone has been starved for since Nov. 19.
“You just want to end it as quick as you can,” said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
after Wednesday’s optional pre-game game skate. “I think we’re showing signs of coming out of it.”
Senators head coach John Paddock also noticed a much improved effort over the one shown in Saturday’s 5-2 home loss to the New York Rangers.
“I think we battled harder (against Tampa),” he said. “We had some letdown moments but I think we started real strong. We had two or three real good (early) scoring chances … After that, we carried the play in the second and third periods.”
The Senators also got a fiery, top-notch goaltending effort from Ray Emery, who’ll get a second straight start Wednesday night.
“He gave us a chance to stay in the hockey game,” said Paddock. “There were no weak goals. He had to make a handful of big saves against a team that’s explosive … I thought he was pretty sharp and into the game.”
Scoring the first goal would be a big help against the Panthers. The Senators haven’t held a lead in four straight games now.
“We need to be better as a team, we need to be better individually, and we’ve just got to keep working. That’s the biggest thing,” said Alfredsson.
“We’ve been putting ourselves in tough positions by letting in the first and second goals most nights. We’ve got to find a way to get off to better starts.”
While the seven-game winless streak – the Senators’ longest since the 1995-96 season – has been frustrating, defenceman Wade Redden insisted it hasn’t sapped the players’ confidence.
“It’s the little things (that are hurting us), I guess,” he said. “It’s (about) just being mentally ready. It’s not a fact that we don’t believe in each other at all. We’ve just got to realize what makes us good.
“Sometimes you get a little fat and you get a little off your game because you’ve had success, but we’ve got to realize that what does it for us is making simple plays. We get the puck in situations and we’re trying to hold on to it for another second or half a second to make a better play, when the first one is usually the best one to make.”
The bounces haven’t exactly been going the Senators’ way lately, either. But Paddock said that kind of luck evens itself out over the course of a season.
“If you’re really working hard enough, you get the breaks,” he said. “I think we worked an awful lot harder (Tuesday) night than we did in the Ranger game.
“But you don’t get (the breaks) if you don’t deserve them. We haven’t got them lately, and I think that’s just an indication that there’s still a little bit more to give.”