Mendes on NHL: Fifteen ways to lose

The Senators had the lead, only to fritter it away with a third-period collapse. The game was there for the taking in the final frame yet the Senators skated away with a loss.

How many times have we seen that script play out this season?

Sadly, the answer is 15.

Eighteen times this season, the Ottawa Senators have been involved in a hockey game tied at some point in the third period. And on 15 of those occassions, they’ve lost the game. The only exceptions to the rule, have been the following games:

Dec. 5 at New York – Chris Kelly’s hat trick – including two goals in the third period give the Senators the win.

Nov. 22 vs. Los Angeles – Jason Spezza scores the game-winner in the third period. But remember – Ryan Smyth had a goal disallowed in the final seconds of the game that would have tied the score.

Oct. 14 vs. Carolina – After squandering a 2-0 lead in the game in a span of 90 seconds in the third period, Mike Fisher tallies the winning goal.

That’s it – just three times out of 18 tries have the Senators pulled one out of the fire.

Imagine if they had even won five of those 15 games. They could have an additional 10 points in the standings. And we might be talking about who Bryan Murray should be adding at the trade deadline for a playoff push, instead of discussing who is on their way out.

I’ll give them credit; at least they’ve been creative with their third period losses.

There were tremendous comebacks against Columbus and Atlanta that erased 3-0 deficits – only to lose in overtime. There was the highly-entertaining game in Colorado, where the lead changed hands multiple times in the third period. But that also ended with a Matt Duchene overtime winner.

Milan Michalek’s late third period goal with the goalie pulled in Chicago earlier this month seemed like it was a character-building moment…until Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews won it for the Blackhawks in the shootout.

Perhaps we should have seen this trend coming on opening night. The Senators were tied 1-1 with the Buffalo Sabres in the third period, before Derek Roy potted the winner. And the tone for third periods was set right there.

Right now, they are on an ugly losing streak in which they’ve lost eight consecutive games that have been tied in the third period.

There has been lots of talk in Ottawa about playing a full 60 minutes. The sad truth is this: If this team had just played a little bit better in the final 20 minutes, they would be in the thick of the playoff hunt right now.

Here is a complete list of the games in which the Senators have been tied with their opponent at some point in the third period so far this season:

Oct. 8 vs. Buffalo – 2-1 loss

Oct. 11 at Washington – 3-2 OT loss

Oct. 14 vs. Carolina – 3-2 win

Oct. 16 at Montreal – 4-3 loss

Nov. 22 vs. Los Angeles – 3-2 win

Nov. 24 vs. Dallas – 2-1 loss

Nov. 26 at Pittsburgh – 2-1 loss

Nov. 29 vs. Edmonton – 4-1 loss

Dec. 4 vs. Buffalo – 1-0 SO loss

Dec. 5 at NY Rangers – 3-1 win

Dec. 7 at Montreal – 4-1 loss

Dec. 9 vs. NY Rangers – 5-3 loss

Dec. 13 vs. Atlanta – 4-3 OT loss

Dec. 17 at Colorado – 6-5 OT loss

Dec. 31 at Columbus – 4-3 OT loss

Jan. 7 at Chicago – 2-1 SO loss

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay – 2-1 loss

Jan. 16 at Washington – 3-1 loss