Holiday cheer for Sens

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:37 PM ET

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Senators 4, Islanders 2

A woeful week on the road ended with the Senators finally letting out a Christmas cheer last night.

Capitalizing on some shaky goaltending by the Islanders' Rick DiPietro, the Senators maintained their grasp on first place in the Eastern Conference with a 4-2 victory in front of 11,425 fans at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The win ended a two-game losing streak and allows Ottawa to take a 24-6-3 record into its short Christmas break.

"It's not going to be maybe as depressing of a Christmas in Ottawa," Senators coach Bryan Murray said with a touch of sarcasm. "People in Ottawa can smile again when talking about the Senators."

RANGERS UP NEXT

The Senators' schedule resumes next week with a stretch of three home games, beginning with Monday's showdown with the much-improved New York Rangers.

Ray Emery registered the win in Ottawa's goal, improving his record to 7-1-1 while stopping 25 shots.

DiPietro, who was horrible early, made 22 saves.

The key goal came with time winding down in the second period when Dany Heatley gave Ottawa a healthy three-goal lead with his 22nd of the season. Not only was it a brilliant solo effort, but he put an exclamation mark on it, too.

With a surge of energy, Heatley barged his way to the front of the net and whipped a hard shot to the top corner, then, after dropping his hands from celebration, skated over to DiPietro and barked a couple of words at the Islanders goalie.

A crowd gathered, with Zdeno Chara naturally in the middle of it, covering Heatley's back, but peace was maintained.

On the previous faceoff, it appeared Heatley and DiPietro had exchanged words.

DIPIETRO CHIRPING

"Oh, it was just a little friendly talk," Heatley said of his confrontation with DiPietro. "What are you doing for Christmas, that sort of thing. It was no big deal."

When it was pointed out that seldom is a player seen yapping at a goalie after scoring, Heatley said: "I would never do that, if he didn't chirp at me. I'm not trying to humiliate the guy, but if he's going to give it to me, I'm going to give it back."

The two came together again in the third when Heatley busted in close for a scoring chance that was denied.

As Heatley skated away, DiPietro swung his stick at him.

A few minutes later, Chris Neil followed up a shot on net with a visit to DiPietro, with whom he also had a conversation.

The Islanders had scored on their first shot in four of their previous 15 home games before the Senators came to town and turned the table.

Rookie Patrick Eaves gave Ottawa the lead sweet-touching a nice set up from Vaclav Varada at 5:08 of the opening period -- not only the Senators' first shot on goal but one of the first times they crossed the Islanders' blue line.

It was Eaves' fourth goal in 11 games with Ottawa.

The Senators defence then kicked in, as Chara blasted a one-timer by DiPietro exactly one minute later on Ottawa's third shot and rookie Andrej Meszaros slapped one of his own on the team's fifth shot.

The Islanders got one back early in the second as Jason Blake put one past Emery's glove, then nearly made it a one-goal game shortly afterwards when Miroslav Satan found himself with the puck and a wide-open net. Emery moved quickly to make a great save.

"I think the puck hit a skate or something .. it sort of surprised him that he wound up with it and I think he stumbled a bit," Emery said of Satan's chance. "I just wanted to take the bottom of the net away."

Emery had another close call early in the third, when an Arron Asham slap shot busted his stick. The puck slid by him toward the empty net -- Asham even raised his arms to celebrate a goal -- but slowly rolled to the post.

Mark Parrish scored at 5:52 of the third, but that was as close as the Isles could get.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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