Blowout of Leafs a major Sens step

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

The Senators' road to the Stanley Cup will be filled with plenty of hurdles along the way.

But GM John Muckler is convinced his team cleared a major one in manhandling the Toronto Maple Leafs 8-0 Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Not only did the Senators beat the Leafs on the ice, they knocked them out in the alley. Dany Heatley scored four goals, Dominik Hasek made 27 saves in posting a shutout, and bruiser Brian McGrattan punched out Leafs enforcer Tie Domi.

"That was fabulous for our hockey club," said Muckler. "That was great. It was something that had to happen. The mystique of the Toronto Maple Leafs is not there (for us) anymore."

But last night, it appeared the Senators left it all on the ice against their arch-rivals. The Senators couldn't match that level of intensity in last night's 5-3 loss to the Flyers at the Corel Centre. Goalie Robert Esche was the key with 39 saves.

"We had plenty of goals in Toronto, but we couldn't find a way to put them in (last night)," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "It's tough. We didn't play very well in the first and then we had to dig ourselves out of a hole."

With eight wins, the Senators, have had one of the most successful Octobers in team history. The reason? They're playing with confidence instead of being afraid to lose and coach Bryan Murray comes armed with a winning game plan every night.

He isn't going to put with any crap, either. McGrattan is told to be smart about choosing his opponents, but he was trying to chide Philadelphia tough guy Donald Brashear into a fight in the second period last night.

"This club will never be tentative again," said Muckler. "We've got a good mix here. We feel like this could be our best year and this could be our best opportunity (to win a Stanley Cup)."

Count Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock as a fan of the Senators and their new approach. While the Flyers have improved their roster by adding Peter Forsberg, along with youngsters Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, they're still concerned about Ottawa.

"The one thing I really like about Ottawa is they can beat you any way they want," said Hitchcock. "Everybody talks about them winning with speed and skill, but that's not the only reason they've had success.

"Basically, they've got a great defence and they've got such a structured system now. They show no regard whatsoever for the new rules. Their defence is willing to play physical and they'll take penalties.

"They don't worry at all about taking penalties because they'll kill them off. You want to play them tough, they'll play you tough. You want to use skill, they'll play with skill. They're an excellent hockey club that has been able to put it all together."

But if the Senators are going to have major success, they can't run into the penalty trouble they had in the second period against the Flyers last night. Philly had four straight power plays.

The result? Two goals.

"That second period was what cost us the game," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We didn't play very well and then we ran into penalty trouble. You can't do that against a team like that."

Changes will be made in the next 24 hours. Last night, winger Martin Havlat served the final 60 minutes of his five-game suspension for booting Boston defenceman Hal Gill in the groin. He'll return Wednesday against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.

Since the Senators aren't going to carry 22 healthy bodies, it's expected winger Brandon Bochenski, who has struggled since the lighting the lamp in the pre-season, will likely be sent to Binghamton.

"We have to make a roster move. We don't have any other choice," said Muckler. "The cap system will not allow us to carry (22) players and we're going to have to make some kind of decision."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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