Howe's that for a debut?

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Quite a debut for Sugar Ray Emery last night at the (Come On In And Ring The Habs') Bell Centre.

Along with stopping 27 shots in the Senators' 4-2, home-open-spoiling victory over the Canadiens, Emery drew an assist on the game deciding goal.

In what was really the start of his NHL career, he also almost invented what Le Droit sports editor Marc Brassard figured would have been a goalie's version of "The Gordie Howe."

Habs enforcer Raitis Ivanans appeared to want a piece of Emery, known for his pugilistic prowess, during an early second-period moment. (Emery later said he didn't realize the 6-foot-4, 263-lb. Man-Mountain was jawing in his direction, but added, laughing: "I wouldn't want to hurt him").

Emery, meanwhile, went on the attack as the period was ending. With the score tied 2-2, he started the key play of the game by dishing a pass to Andrej Meszaros, who relayed to Daniel Alfredsson. The captain capped off the rush with a nifty move and hard shot between a defenceman's legs and under goalie Jose Theodore's arm.

Emery's assist was the second by a goalie this year (Rick DiPietro of the Isles has the other), giving him three points (including the two for the win) in what was a shot to Ivanans nose shy of being the perfect trifecta.

"With the new rules, it's cool, I get a chance to look up and see if a guy is available for a stretch pass," Emery, who admitted to having butterflies before the game, "but in a good way," said of his helper.

"I'm as competitive as they come. I was well aware that the Big Guy (Dominik Hasek) was 3-0 and I wanted to do my part, too."

The night also had some added, personal significance to Emery, whose career NHL record improved to 4-0.

"I was a Leafs fan as a kid," he said. "I hated the Canadiens. It was great to come in here and win."

Starts and Stops:

Creating logjams in front of the opposition's net continues to be the trademark of success early into the Bryan Murray regime. Brian McGrattan was battling with Sheldon Souray in front of the crease when Zdeno Chara opened the scoring for Ottawa, and Antoine Vermette could have told you what toothpaste Theodore uses as his body was deflecting Chris Phillips' point shot in for the Senators' third goal. Jacques Martin used to tell his players to go to the net hard, too. Guess they just didn't seem to listen as well back then ... Jason Spezza's streak is over at 30. The Senators' emerging star finished up last year by scoring at least one point in Binghamton's final 20 games, and the run stretched over to Ottawa's seven pre-season games and first three outings of the 2005-06 regular campaign. Spezza was held off the scoresheet last night ... Anton Volchenkov, aka "The A-Train," parked himself in front of Montreal rookie Chris Higgins with a big first-period hit. He also looked like he was running out of steam at the end of a shift that saw Alex Kovalev pass the puck by him to Saku Koivu for Montreal's first goal.

Between Periods:

Give the Habs a clear cut decision over Ottawa in the opening-night ceremonies department. From video-board presentation to crowd noise to just plain old atmosphere. Seems they had their own microphone incident, however, as a couple of unfurling banners fell all the way to the ice ... Painters were hard at work at the Bell Centre in the morning, leaving one to wonder if perhaps the lockout was a day or two too short for the Habs .... Patrick Eaves, who arrived in Montreal at 4 a.m. after being recalled from Binghamton to fill in for the injured Mike Fisher, looked very much in place as the left winger on a line with Bryan Smolinski and Alfredsson. He played 11:25, then was shipped back to the minors following the game.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...:

Finally witnessed firsthand the very one-sided battle Senators media relations man Steve Keogh has with the Bell Centre hot dog. The Smokeys don't stand a chance against the man they call Smokey. Keogh pounded back an even dozen in the press room before last night's game. His personal best is 19. "It's getting harder and harder every year," said the 34-year-old phenom ... The Senators' power play was caught flat-footed a couple of times. With their first two-minute opportunity, the best scoring chance was Steve Begin's partial breakaway that Emery stopped with his left pad. Begin scored a short-handed goal in the second after deflecting the puck by Wade Redden at the Montreal blue line and converting a pass from Tomas Plekanec. You know you're in trouble when the last two Senators back on the play were Spezza and Dany Heatley ... Jan Bulis and Craig Rivet were the top hitters in the game, with five each. A-Train led the Senators in that department with four ... Chara played more than 25 minutes and had his arm out of its sleeve in the dressing room following the game. The injury didn't appear serious.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING ...

BATTLE OF THE GIANTS: Zdeno Chara fighting seldom-used goon Raitis Ivanans was a trade off the Habs would take every time. Their second-period scrap was brief and ended with Chara losing his balance and falling to the ice, but he did manage to land the only punches -- a couple of solid rights -- and the second while he was going down. As Chara headed to the box, Ivanans was off to the dressing room for repairs. The diagnosis -- an "eye contusion" -- kept him from returning.

BONK BURNED: Former Senator Radek Bonk lost a first-period draw to rookie Chris Kelly, and the Habs never could recover. The puck stayed in Ottawa's possession for 20 or 30 seconds before Chara blasted it to open the scoring.

THE NEW 14: While Bonk was a goat, the kid who inherited his old Ottawa jersey had a pretty good night. Rookie Andrej Maszeros chipped in with two assists and an otherwise solid effort.


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