Havlat a man advantage

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:26 PM ET

Senators 5, Sabres 0

So Martin Havlat, how many penalties did you kill when Jacques Martin was the coach of the Senators?

"My first season, the first three or four games ..."

Yes, yes, and then?

"No, that's it." Oh.

And so it is that 278 or 279 games later and with Bryan Murray behind the bench of this new and exciting Ottawa team, Havlat made plenty good on his next chance with shorthanded ice time.

He and Peter Schaefer formed a fast and effective unit in last night's 5-0 home-opening win at the Corel Centre. Havlat's short-handed breakaway goal 4:41 into the third -- his team's third score of the night -- erased any hope the Buffalo Sabres had of making a comeback.

"It was kind of fun," said Havlat. "We had a lot of scoring chances from (the penalty kill). It was fun."

Like Havlat, Murray's other penalty killers are loaded with offensive skills. He also used Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson together, with Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly forming a third tandem.

"That's why I've gone to them a lot," Murray said of the ability those players have to create positives from a negative. "I've told them, not only should you try and kill the penalty, but when you get the other team to gamble, it can create some chances. Speed is a big factor in that."

Not only does Havlat have the potential to be among the league leaders in short-handed goals, he is one player who will benefit tremendously from the new rules that, at least for now, finger the clutching and grabbing as penalties.

"That took away the strength of my game," said Havlat. "Now that I don't have to fight through the holding and hooking and grabbing, I just have to skate more."

Something that Havlat -- and the new Senators -- can do very well.

Starts and stops:

Tough post-game for Chris Neil, who went from having two goals when he took his bows as the game's third star to zero about 15 minutes later. Upon review, both were credited to Heatley. "Neil Dog is going to the net hard, he'll get his for sure," said Heatley. Whether he'll get to keep them is another story ... Schaefer provided locals with the initial thrill of the night, attempting that similar puck-flip move he used to dazzle them in Dallas a couple of years ago. His follow-up shot was blocked, but Havlat swooped in on the loose puck for a great short-handed scoring chance. "I screw around with it at practice," Schaefer said of his patented deke. "(Marian) Hossa was really good at it in the neutral zone." Nobody's better than Schaefer pulling it off in close, though ... This just in -- officials have given one of Heatley's goals to Chris Phillips and taken Wade Redden's away and credited Antoine Vermette with one and Anton Volchenkov with a pair. They have also awarded Zdeno Chara with, wait, wait just a second, a hat trick!!! Make the final, Senators 10, Sabres 0.

Between periods:

The difference between the two, convincing wins by Ottawa pro teams this weekend? The Renegades game lasted a full hour longer than it took for the Senators-Sabres tilt to complete .... Believe it or not, there are still 1,300 tickets available for tomorrow's visit by the Leafs. There are also 2,500 still left for next Saturday's game against Boston.

Things that make you go hmmm...:

Magnificent Senators-influenced paint job done by Super Sam Barber on his van, which was parked just outside Gate 3 last night. Obviously a big hockey guy, Super Sam probably should have checked a program for the spelling of the names on his favourite team first, though ... Making his broadcasting debut right behind us and alongside Mark Lee was new Hockey Night in Canada colour man Ron Tugnutt, who shoots down our theory that he will wind up being coaxed out of retirement and in goal for the Senators this season. Y'know, last night was the first time we ever saw Tugger wearing makeup -- that we can remember, at least ... Announcing the Chara hat trick was a mistake. He actually had three shots on goal, not goals. Ottawa wins 7-0.

Butt ends:

Liked the Brian McGrattan-Andrew Peters heavyweight draw in the third. Didn't like the linesmen jumping in and breaking it up as early as they did. Loved McGrattan's wave to the cheering fans as he skated to the box. Shows he's getting comfortable in his role here ... It takes a trip to the rink to find out that Y-105 morning man Mark Papousek recently set a course record at Timber Run in Lanark, shooting a 6-under 63 that included a hole-in-one on No. 8 .... The Sabres have just added goals by Ales Kotalik, Brian Campbell, Rory Fitzpatrick and Maxim Afinogenov, while two Senators goals have just been reversed. The score is now 5-4 for the home team ... Oh great, now the Buffalo goals have been waved off ... And finally, the media hockey team in this city is losing one of its stars, as sports anchor Ken Reid is leaving the A-Channel for a job with CFRN CTV in Edmonton. He will be missed by everyone except the goalies.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

THE IT-SNUCK-UP-ON-THEM MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Hope the captain didn't work too hard on that speech he was to deliver during pre-game ceremonies. The first microphone Daniel Alfredsson tried didn't work and neither did the second, so the plan was abandoned. How embarrassing. Nobody thought to do a sound check? Unfortunately, the mayor's mike worked just fine.

A BIG DATE: First cam kiss of the season came from Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who planted a wet one on wife Laura as the two spent their 11th anniversary watching their most expensive toy play. Don Henley must have been up getting the popcorn.

BY THE NUMBERS: Sabres D Jay McKee had a busy night, blocking 10 Senators shots ... Zdeno Chara, Anton Volchenkov and Chris Neil led Senators with three hits each ... Martin Havlat was the game's top shooter, with seven ... Most ice time went to Chara: 26:22.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos