Tyler-made for Senators

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

ATLANTA -- Tyler Arnason is making John Muckler look like a smart guy.

Muckler, the Senators GM, obtained Arnason at the trade deadline to give the club some scoring depth and better balance up front.

The evaluation of the deal won't be known until the playoffs, but for one game -- so far, so good.

Arnason picked up an assist on his second shift last night as the Senators raced out to a 3-0 lead and dinged the Thrashers' playoff hopes with a 3-1 win at Philips Arena.

"The last 24 hours have been pretty nerve-wracking," Arnason said after the game. "I didn't get too much sleep and (yesterday) afternoon my brain wouldn't turn off.

"I kind of needed that start. We got a couple of goals early and that helped."

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Senators after losing 6-2 to the Panthers in Florida on Wednesday night (Speaking of the Panthers, they did Ottawa a favour last night by beating Carolina 5-3, allowing the Senators to move within two points of the Hurricanes for top spot in the Eastern Conference).

Of course, it didn't hurt that the Senators pumped three goals by Atlanta rookie goalie Kari Lehtonen on their first four shots before the game was five minutes old.

Arnason, playing on a line with captain Daniel Alfredsson and winger Bryan Smolinski, forced a bad pass that resulted in a turnover, leading to Alfredsson opening the scoring 1:43 into the game.

After Chris Kelly made it 2-0 less than a minute later on a great sprint down the left wing for his sixth of the season (he also had a huge game killing penalties), Arnason did all the spade work to set up Smolinski for his 14th.

Arnason won a battle for the puck behind the net and got it out front to Smolinski.

"I just said to our coaches he looks like a real intelligent player," Senators coach Bryan Murray said of Arnason. "Whoever plays with him is going to be looked after because he can find the open man."

Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk made it 3-1 on the power play with his 41st of the season at 4:26 of the second, converting a beautiful pass by former Senator Marian Hossa.

EMERY QUIET BUT GOOD

Senators goaltender Ray Emery wasn't that busy -- the Thrashers only had 16 shots -- but he was good when he had to be.

He made his best save of the night halfway through the second when he fired over and stopped Scott Mellanby's shot on a 2-on-1.

"Ray made a couple of real big saves for us on quick plays," said Murray, "and I thought we played real well in our end."

The Senators did a great job of forechecking, deciding where the battles would be and, knowing the Thrashers have a killer power play, staying out of the box.

The game did have its nasty moments. There were hits from behind on both sides and there is a surly tone when Senators winger Dany Heatley returns here.

Heatley, booed every time he touched the puck, appeared to become involved with some fans near the railing where the Senators exited their bench for the dressing room at the end of the first period.

A number of Heatley's teammates gathered in the walkway. At the end of the second, three women shouted at Heatley as he left the ice, but he ignored them, looking the other way and slapping hands with some young fans.

Heatley asked the Thrashers for a trade almost a year after being in a car accident here that killed teammate Dan Snyder.

The Senators are now 3-1 on their five-game road trip, which wraps up tomorrow afternoon in Washington against the Capitals.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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