TORONTO - The struggles continue for the Ottawa Senators.
A 3-1 loss to provincial rival Toronto on Saturday night - in which the Senators had several scoring opportunities, but were repeatedly denied by Maple Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala - dropped Ottawa to 13-18-5 on the season.
It's tough to swallow for a team that advanced to the 2007 Stanley Cup final and then started off last season on a tear, winning 15 of their first 17 games.
"We've talked a lot about it and I don't think you can point the finger at any specific issue," said Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson when asked about the team's troubles in 2008-09. "We're just not getting the job done. We've had stretches where we played pretty well and thought we were going in the right direction and then we kind of lost our way a little bit and find it again.
"The last two games we're playing really well. It's that finishing thing ... we're playing well enough to win, but we're not finding a way to win."
The Senators beat Edmonton 3-2 on Tuesday night, snapping a 12-game winless skid on the road (0-10-2). Ottawa appeared to be on the right track to follow up with a win over Toronto, but Toskala's heroics and timely third-period scoring by the Leafs dropped the Sens' road record to 4-12-2 on the season - the worst mark in the NHL.
Considering Ottawa is in the midst of a season-high eight-game road trip, turning things around quickly is a high priority. So far, the Senators are 1-4-0 on the trip; overall, Ottawa is 3-8-1 in its past 12 games.
"It's tough after a (loss), but we have to come back and go to battle tomorrow again," said Alfredsson. "We need the same effort and, you know, we have to find a way to score some goals and (avoid) making mistakes ... every time we do, the puck ends up in our net."
The Sens have surrendered 20 goals in the first five games of their current road trip, although Martin Gerber has started the past three contests and allowed a total of just eight goals against.
"I don't think anyone knows why we are where we are, but it took us a while to find our game," said Gerber, who fell to 4-8-1 on the season after the loss to Toronto. "Over the last couple of games, we've played well, but we just seem to sometimes, you know, fall behind and then we get off the same page.
"We need to be consistent and try to go in small steps and build something going forward here."
After New Jersey on Sunday, the Senators conclude their road swing - necessitated by the fact the World Junior Champiosnhip is being hosted in Ottawa - with a pair of divisional tilts at Boston on Tuesday and at Buffalo on Thursday.
"We've got to move forward," Gerber said. "We've just got to play like we did in the first period tonight and, you know, try to get some goals."
That approach sounded about right to Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg.
"We go right back at it again tomorrow," Hartsburg said. "It's a short turnaround, but it doesn't give us any time to mope or worry about this one (losing to the Leafs). We've got to get ready for New Jersey."