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Senators Playoff Hopes Dwindling After Loss in Columbus

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The Blue Jackets send the Ottawa Senators below .500 for the first time in a long time. They now have a much better shot at Auston Matthews than they do at playing in the postseason.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Still looking for their first win during the Dion Phaneuf era in Ottawa, the Senators travelled to Columbus, Ohio in hopes to snap a two-game losing streak.

While Ottawa's playoff chances stood at 3.3% (according to sportsclubstats.com) and the probability of them winning the Draft Lottery was at 6.5% coming into tonight's game, fans have become torn as to whether they'd like the club to go on a big winning streak or tank for the future.

With the Senators not playing another playoff team until the end of February, both sides of the argument have a chance to progress. Playing worse teams, the Senators have a better chance to put together a big winning streak, but if they lose those games, it brings them even closer to a shot at Auston Matthews.

A team that has struggled with starts this season, the same storyline would stick with the Senators on Saturday night. After few scoring chances and a power play that failed to feature controlled possession in the offensive zone, a goaltending gaff saw the Senators down 1-0.

Doing his best Wayne Gretzky impression, Cam Atkinson stickhandled behind the Senators' net with just over a minute left in the first period. From No. 99's office, the 26-year-old found Seth Jones who was streaking in on the right wing. Jones fired a puck on the ice and caught Craig Anderson in an awkward position. The puck spilt squeaked under Anderson's pad and Boone Jenner - the man with the best name in hockey - poked home his 18th of the year.

The first intermission featured Don Cherry dressed head-to-toe in red and white hearts, declaring his love for Jared Cowen. Well, not necessarily love, but the 82-year-old Canadian icon did say, and I quote, that Cowen will be the "kicker" in the nine-player deal between the Leafs and Senators.

Moving on.

The second frame was a classic example of how Erik Karlsson can take over a game. With a breakaway pass to Zack Smith, countless scoring chances set up by the Swedish sensation and a total of eight shots in the first 40 minutes, Karlsson showed exactly why he should be in the Hart Trophy conversation by the end of the season.

But despite the captain's efforts, the Blue Jackets would breakthrough yet again.

Brandon Dubinski was circling in the Senators' zone when he saw a wide open Atkinson poised for a one-timer in the slot. Atkinson's blast over the shoulder of Anderson would be his second point of the night as the Blue Jackets took a 2-0 lead into the final intermission.

This late in the campaign, while the Senators' postseason hopes continue to fade, many fans have taken to cheering more for Karlsson's individual achievements than the team as a whole. In a way, it makes sense. While Ottawa's season is falling apart, No. 65 is a possible Hart candidate and will most likely win his third Norris Trophy in late June.

Midway through the third period, Sens fans finally had something to cheer for.

On a 5-on-3 power play, Karlsson watched Columbus goaltender Joonis Korpisalo flop around like a fish out of water as he stumbled trying to recover from an onslaught of Ottawa shots. Karlsson faked a shot, slid the puck to Bobby Ryan who fired home his 20th of the season into a wide open net.

Then the game took an emotional turn.

Karlsson and Matt Calvert jostled at the half boards before a faceoff, and just after Calvert got the last whack, slashing Karlsson in the ankle, Alex Chiasson took exception and the two would drop the gloves.

After the Blue Jackets extended the lead to 3-1, Cody Ceci gave the Senators life with a massive slap shot over the glove hand of Korpisalo.

Sadly - or happily, if you're riding the bulletproof tank headed straight for the Draft Lottery - Columbus would add an empty netter and take the game 4-2.

The Senators are now one game below .500.

Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson

The captain had another one of those games. Regardless of the fact that he was a minus-4, he was one of the only reasons the Senators had a chance. He needed to take a few chances in the third period, which ended up costing Ottawa a goal, but it was only necessary.

Sens Hero: Alex Chiasson

Sticking up for the captain will always get you in my good books.

Sens Zero: The End Boards

Unfortunately Mark Borowiecki was forced awkwardly into the boards in the second period. The Senators' trainer and the arena's emergency staff came onto the ice, stretcher in hand, but Borowiecki would only need a towel for his head. He would not return to the game and his status is unclear as of now.

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