It was ugly, brutish, and nasty. The Carolina Hurricanes handed a flat-footed Ottawa Senators team a resounding defeat by a score of 5-1 on Sunday. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
With nine games remaining in their regular season, the last eight against division rivals, the bitter medicine that the Senators had to swallow on Sunday is just what the doctor ordered. "Sometimes, it's good to have a game like that where you say: 'Hey, we played three really good hockey games but we're not unbeatable or untouchable' ", said center Jason Spezza. "You get blown out and it brings everybody back to earth. That's one of those games you just park. You might as well lose 5-1, 6-1 or 7-1 than lose 2-1 and think you played well. You lose a game by a blowout and that straightens everybody out."
Indeed, the Senators' play on Sunday was dismal if somewhat pre-ordained. The Senators, who had been doing well of late with a string of three wins, were only 8 games into the New Bryan Murray Era, and just barely getting back to working their system; a relapse was bound to happen. They also fell to a hungrier Carolina Hurricanes team, fresh from being served a 7-1 whitewashing at the hands of the Sabres last Friday where it was the Canes' that were left flat-footed against a fast Buffalo team. It is no surprise that the Hurricanes passed the buck along to Ottawa, and in the same coin that they'd been paid by Buffalo. Strangely the Sabres had been paid in the very same currency by the Penguins in their previous game.
Finally, "Joltin'" Joe Corvo (a much better nickname that the "Uh-oh" moniker the Ottawa press hung around his neck) and Patrick Eaves had a little message to send to the Sens, and send it they did... in spades. Corvo completed his first ever hat trick with two poweful slap shots and a nifty move on Gerber to bury the third. Eaves was back to doing what he does best: making a pest of himself in the crease. The message was clear: work hard, know your role, play it, and good things will happen. The Penguins passed that message to the Sabres, who passed it to the Canes, who passed it to the Sens.
After a brief break on Monday, the Senators got back to the practice rink on Tuesday to work the kinks out of the "Senators System". The jostling for position in the NHL standings has begun. With only 9 to 10 games left for most teams, the cutoff line to the playoffs has already claimed its first victim. The Los Angeles Kings are now mathematically out of it. Time is running short and the Senators know it.
After facing the Blues on Thursday, the Senators will play only divisional rivals. Better yet, they will have an intense five games in eight days to find their groove and settle into it. Sunday's wake-up call against the Hurricanes sounded an alarm bell for the Senators. The team has 17 short days before the end of the season. Seventeen days to perfect their system, find their scoring touch, and take the whole thing into overdrive. A tall order for the Senators, perhaps the tallest order ever.