Black cloud, meet silver lining: Cats 5, Sens 2

The black cloud? Well, with the Sens' loss and Montréal's 4-1 victory, the Sens are officially eliminated from the playoffs. (It's been a long funeral.) But the silver lining is that the Florida Panthers didn't lose and ground on the Montréal Canadiens (who won 4-1 over the Chicago Blackhawks) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The game started pretty well, with Brian Elliott coming up huge with 11 saves in the first period. Ottawa was largely outplayed, and badly outhit 10-2 in that first frame, but still stayed in it thanks to the play of Elliott. Nathan Horton gave Florida the lead early in the second, though, with Cory Stillman feeding him a nice saucer pass as both Jason Spezza and Filip Kuba making poor defensive decisions on the play to leave Elliott high and dry. Ottawa's Chris Kelly (!) tied the game thanks to a nice pass from Nick Foligno, but Richard Zednik and Bryan McCabe each scored powerplay goals on a Brendan Bell double-minor penalty (that should have gone against Kelly), and that took the Sens right out of the game. Stephen Weiss opened up a three-goal lead before Chris Campoli trimmed it back down to two, but Michael Frolik added an empty-netter to make it a 5-2 final.

As much as the Panthers' huge second-period powerplay hurt the Sens, I think weak defensive coverage was the bigger problem for Ottawa. The first and fourth goal in particular, but in general the Sens' position in their own zone left a lot to be desired.

Elliott was pulled after Florida's fourth goal, but it's hard to fault him for any of the goals--except maybe Zednik's. The third and fourth were tip-ins, and the others were cross-ice passes that the defenceman didn't pick up. Alex Auld came in to relieve him, and stopped all five shots he faced--one of which was a sick save.

Something new I've noticed about the CASH Line: These days Spezza comes deep into the defensive end for puck retrieval, as a centreman is supposed to. Earlier in the year, it was Daniel Alfredsson playing deep in the defensive zone. Even though Spezza's got a few things to learn about staying on the right side of the puck, I think this new arrangement is a good one.

Speaking of Alfredsson, he had a great chance to get Ottawa back in the game with a short-handed two-on-one. After a slick pass, he had a wide open net to shoot at but hit the post dead on.

Although the Sens were outhit 10-2 in the first period, they came back and ended the game outhitting Florida 20-18. Two big and notable ones: Brian Lee, who stood up Kamil Kreps at the blue line, and Anton Volchenkov, who smoked an anonymous Panther in the defensive zone.

Campoli: 17:30 in ice time, a goal, three shots, a hit, and two blocked shots. He's been taking gried from a few directions, including coach Cory Clouston, but I think he's done pretty well so far with the Sens. He was one of only three Senators on the plus side of the +/- ledger at +1 (although Ryan Shannon was a slightly more impressive +2). He's not going to light us up with his defensive play, but I think he's been solid.

Our hopes for the playoffs are now officially ended, Sens fans. We have a long off-season to mourn about it, but soon enough the 2009 NHL Entry Draft will give us something new to look forward to. But let's be honest; despite our optimism since Clouston took over, we all pretty much knew that the fat lady had already finished her performance.

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