OTTAWA (CP) - The Ottawa Senators were looking to make history, but instead they found themselves repeating it.
Ottawa watched its playoff hopes fall short again as they were defeated 3-2 in overtime by the Buffalo Sabres in Game 5 the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday. The Sabres won the series 4-1.
Touted as Stanley Cup favourites from the start of the season, the Senators now find themselves trying to explain how and why they fell short yet again.
One could easily give the Senators the moniker of chokers having yet to find a way to shed their playoff demons and there will undoubtedly be changes made in the face of this most recent failure.
''Certainly we had enough going for us,'' said Senators coach Bryan Murray. ''We could have gone deeper in the playoffs, but they found a way.''
The Senators were the highest scoring team in the regular season, but managed just 13 goals against the Sabres and six of those were in Game 1.
The difference in this series was that Ottawa's top scorers failed to provide the necessary offence.
Dany Heatley had one goal and one assist in the series, Daniel Alfredsson had one goal and four assists, while Jason Spezza had three goals and one assist.
''The right people weren't scoring goals for us,'' Murray said.
Players were quick to say they would like to see the same group return, but realize with the business of the game it isn't likely to happen.
''We have a lot of talent, a lot of good personnel in here and it's disappointing to blow a chance because you never know when you're going to have a team that has a chance to win,'' said forward Mike Fisher.
The turning point may have come after the very first game, when the Senators gave up the lead five different times to eventually lose 7-6 in overtime.
''We thought we should have won those games,'' Fisher said. ''We made some difficult mistakes. We gave them what they got and it kind of gave them the confidence that they could win. I think they strived on that.''
Having made so many mistakes, Ottawa began to play a more cautious style and never seemed to find their own game again until it was almost too late.
Down 3-0 in the series, Ottawa won Game 4 and were optimistic that they still had a chance to turn things around.
''There was a feeling around the rink the last couple of days that we were more than optimistic, we were confident,'' goalie Ray Emery said. ''We came out hard, but, I don't know, it's short again.''
The Senators played well enough to win Saturday night, but once again fell short in overtime.
''They won the series because they outplayed us in overtime three times, that was the series,'' Murray said. ''When you lose three games in overtime it's pretty tough.''