MONTREAL - With the way things are going in Ottawa these days, even a loss can be encouraging news to the Senators.
Head coach John Paddock and most of his players were satisfied with Ottawa's effort in a 4-3 loss at Montreal on Tuesday, especially following a listless 4-2 loss in Toronto on Saturday, and a 40-minute meeting with his players Monday morning.
"I thought we had a pretty good effort for the most part," Paddock said. "We did a lot of things better than we've been doing, and they did a lot of the things we asked them to do."
It was Ottawa's eighth regulation loss in 11 games - matching its total through the first 37 games of the season - but without offensive stars Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson in the lineup the Senators appeared satisfied with the way they came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third to make it close against the Canadiens.
"We're at the stage where we've lost a few too many games in a row here, and you have to take positives out of losses," said centre Jason Spezza, who had a goal and an assist in the third period. "I think our effort in the third period shows we're still a good hockey club, even without the guys we're missing."
The Senators outshot the Canadiens 12-4 in the third and spent much of the period buzzing in the offensive end.
Goaltender Martin Gerber was upset with himself for allowing Montreal's fourth goal, a quick shot from the side of the net that Tomas Plekanec banked in off of him. But also liked what he saw from his team in the third.
"Definitely not the first 20 minutes, but the way we played in the last 20 is how we have to come out and play for 60 minutes," said Gerber, who made a huge stop on Alex Kovalev alone in the slot to keep it close with about four minutes to play.
"That's the way we want to play and we can play, we just have to do it the whole game."
Even though he was generally happy with Ottawa's game, Spezza was clear that losing is not something that has become acceptable in the Senators dressing room.
"We're frustrated, definitely, but you play so many games in a short period of time that you can't let it keep wearing on you, or else you'll never get out of your slump," he said. "We take the losses hard, we're not accepting them, but you have to move on and try to win the next one." Centre Mike Fischer is able to see the bigger picture for a team who went to the Stanley Cup final last year and expects nothing less this spring.
"We're going to win games," he said. "It's just a matter of us hitting our stride going into the playoffs, that's all we're really concerned about."