Senators flying into break

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

Senators 3

Flyers 2

Their dressing room was buzzing after the game as they stuffed equipment into their bags, exchanged good-natured barbs and left with smiles on their faces.

The Senators, Olympians and non-Olympians alike, head into the two-week break with a solid win in their rear-view mirror, 3-2 over the Philadelphia Flyers last night at Scotiabank Place in front of a crowd of 19,834.

"To win a one-goal game lets us feel good about ourselves before the Olympics," said Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek, who turned back 12 third-period shots to cap the win. "It's very important because we were a struggling, frustrated team. We can feel even better winning a close game like that."

Hasek's point is a good one.

With a record of 7-9 now in one-goal games, the victory against the under-manned Flyers (no Peter Forsberg, for starters) was an important confidence booster for the Senators as they head into the two-week Olympic break.

They erased a bit of the bad taste left by their struggles since Jan. 1 (10-8-2).

It came after they built a 3-0 lead by the 19-second mark of the second period on goals by Antoine Vermette, Vaclav Varada (which chased Philly starter Robert Esche from the net) and Dany Heatley, who scored on rookie Antero Niittymaki.

But Niittymaki shut the door the rest of the way and the Flyers got goals by Simon Gagne (his 37th) and Donald Brashear, with just a little more than three minutes left in the second, to make it tight.

"You learn lots (in games like that). Players learn about themselves," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "They get a chance to see what they can do and what they can't do. You have to go through all those experiences, winning, losing, having to battle. If you don't do that, it's a shock when you get to the playoffs and these games happen every night. It was a good effort to take off on for the break."

It was a win the Senators earned with some of the characteristics for which they had been searching: Some grit, a willingness to get to the front of the net and the ability to win a tight game.

The Senators were spurred on by the legs of young forwards Vermette, rookie Patrick Eaves and defenceman-turned-forward Christoph Schubert.

Vermette combined with Schubert and Chris Kelly and created numerous chances with their hard work.

"The Kelly line was awfully good," said Murray. "They kept the pressure on and were a real force (last) night."

The Senators heading off to the Olympics are Hasek (Czech Republic), Schubert (Germany), Daniel Alfredsson (Sweden), Anton Volchenkov (Russia), Zdeno Chara and Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia) and Heatley, Jason Spezza and Wade Redden (Canada). They were honoured after the game along with the Flyers' Olympians.

Heatley and Senators defenceman Zdeno Chara playfully taunted each other after the game as they packed their equipment bags.

"I have to cheer for my all my players," said Murray. "I hope they don't get hurt. But I'm a Canadian. I'm going to be a Canadian fan."

The Senators not going to the Olympics will report back for duty Feb. 22 for a mini-training camp.

Their next game is March 1 in Pittsburgh.

CHRIS.STEVENSON@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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