Sens back with a bang

Ottawa Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek (39) makes a save as he is surrounded by players J.P....

Ottawa Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek (39) makes a save as he is surrounded by players J.P. Dumont (left to right) Chris Phillips, Brandon Bochenski, Thomas Vanek and Zedno Chara during first period NHL action against the Buffalo Sabres at the Corel Centre in Ottawa Saturday, Oct. 8, 2005.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 5:39 PM ET

Senators 5, Sabres 0

They stood for the last 40 seconds of the game and cheered, maybe for the win, maybe a little for the style their team showed in winning, maybe just because NHL hockey is back in town after a 16-month absence.

The crowd of 19,661, another record for a Senators game at the Corel Centre, soaked up Ottawa's 5-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night.

They saw goaltender Dominik Hasek stop 35 shots for his first shutout as a Senator and the 64th of his NHL career.

"Opening night is special. There's only one a year, especially after 16 months," said Hasek, who kept the Senators in the game in the early going as he turned back three Buffalo power plays in the first period.

"I was pretty busy in the first period. When I came to the locker room, I was sweating and a little tired ... the shutout is a nice thing, but I don't want to get too excited. The most important thing is we won our opening game (at home)."

The Sabres outshot the Senators 19-9 in that opening 20 minutes as the Senators took all the penalties. They did get the only goal as Jason Spezza took a good feed from rookie winger Brandon Bochenski off a scramble in front and beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller with just over five minutes left in the period.

GREAT NIGHT FOR HASEK

If not for Hasek ...

"(Hasek) was our best guy out there, without a doubt. He didn't give them a sniff when we where going just so-so," said Senators coach Bryan Murray, who added with a smile: "I think if he plays like that every night, we'll be fine. I like our chances."

The Senators skaters got better as the game went on with Murray's move to put grinder Chris Neil on the power play paying off in a huge way. The unit was 3-for-5 on the night with Neil originally getting credit for two goals. They were given to Dany Heatley -- his first as a Senator (his goal in the shootout against Toronto the other night didn't count) after the plays were reviewed after the game.

But Neil had the guts, if not the glory, standing in front of Miller and causing trouble.

"It's a pretty simple job," said Neil, who wound up with one assist. "You try not to get moved by their 'D', get in a battle and make a screen."

"It's like my old junior coach used to say," said Senators defenceman Wade Redden, who had Ottawa's third power-play goal and also added two assists on the night. "Put it in the bees' nest and good things happen."

Other good things happened last night, too: Winger Martin Havlat was a revelation killing penalties, scoring Ottawa's third goal while short-handed and finally capitalizing on the many chances he created with his speed. He burst down the middle and, after faking Miller to the ice with a fake shot, swept around him and tucked it in the open side five minutes into the third to make it 3-0.

With special-team performances like that, the Senators will set themselves up nicely to take advantage of the tighter rules being called.

THANKSGIVING BATTLE

Senators fans also have to be happy to see Bochenski not look out of place last night on the scoring line's right side. He had a couple of chances and also made a nice play on the back check.

The Senators created some nice momentum for themselves last night. They'll try and carry it over tomorrow night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in a Thanksgiving Day edition of the Battle of Ontario.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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