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Smith: Senators 'mental toughness' being exposed amid four-game skid

Ottawa Senators DJ Smith D.J. Smith - The Canadian Press

Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith pointed to mental errors as the team's losing skid was extended to four games with Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

“It's mental toughness. It's staying in the moment. It's taking care of the puck. It's wanting to win the game 2-1. If you have that mentality, you have a chance every night,” Smith said. “Power play gets us two goals and then we turn around and get toasted on our penalty kill.

"So, right now, we're making a lot of mistakes. But it's mental. It's not a lack of guys caring or lack of effort. It's the mental side of it.”

The Senators, who have been outscored 19-10 over the four-game stretch, allowed three second-period goals as the Golden Knights pulled away to take a 5-2 lead into the final frame. 

“The second period continues to kill us,” Smith added. “I thought we had a really good first period. We give up a trick-play goal, we give up a shorty, then we lose composure and start turning pucks over. We played right into their hands, really.”

The Senators continue to hold games in hand on every team in the Eastern Conference, but currently sit last in the conference standings with 22 points. The team is 12 points back of the Washington Capitals for the final wild-card spot with just two games in hand and 13 points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the top wild-card spot with five games in hand. 

Ottawa has missed the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, including all four years under Smith. 

Ottawa has two games left on its current three-game road trip, with the Arizona Coyotes on the schedule Tuesday and the Colorado Avalanche waiting Thursday. 

“Everybody wants to win so badly, and, of course, it’s not as easy to do in this league,” captain Brady Tkachuk said. “We’re seeing that right now that it’s hard to win.

"We have to find a way to find a way to just give our absolute best on Tuesday.”

Ottawa will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in their final game before the holiday break.