'Back in the groove'

Now that the Turin Olympics are over, Jason Spezza is turning his focus toward helping the Senators...

Now that the Turin Olympics are over, Jason Spezza is turning his focus toward helping the Senators win a Stanley Cup. (Ottawa Sun/Sean Kilpatrick)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:40 PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- Maybe it was the pasta.

Since getting back from their Olympic experience in Italy, Senators Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley are looking more like the big line that terrorized opposition defences the first two months of the regular season.

Consider this: In the five games before the Olympic break, they had combined for just one goal and two points. Since they returned from Italy, they have combined for four goals and nine assists in the Senators' last three games -- all wins -- as they head into tonight's meeting with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

"We were in a rut. We've just got to play our game, get back to the way we were," said Heatley. "We're skating now, moving our feet. All three of us are back in the groove now. We're supporting each other well."

Spezza set up Heatley for the winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night with the kind of spectacular play that had become an almost nightly occurence in the first couple of months of the regular season.

Spezza dangled his way past two Leafs just outside the Toronto blue line and then dished to Heatley, who was cutting into the high slot, stick raised for a one-timer.

Spezza dished and Heatley let go a shot that beat Toronto goaltender Ed Belfour over the right shoulder -- a shot not many guys in the league can make.

"He just pounded it," said Senators coach Bryan Murray, "and that's what they were doing early in the year."

"And he made it off the wrong foot," marveled Alfredsson.

"(Spezza) got better as the game went on," added Alfredsson, who had helped set up defenceman Brian Pothier for his third goal in as many games in the second.

"(Spezza) made a great play on Heatley's goal. If we're smart with the puck, we're going to get chances and we had a ton of chances."

In their own end, the play of rookie goaltender Ray Emery has also been encouraging.

Forced into the starter's role because of Dominik Hasek's groin injury suffered at the Olympics, Emery is riding a three-game winning streak going into tonight's game against the Lightning (7:30, Rogers Sportsnet) and was a big reason why the Senators beat the Leafs Saturday night.

He made 22 saves against the Leafs and kept the Senators in the game in the second period, during which the Leafs outshot the Senators 11-0 in one stretch.

"You can practise all you want, but you've got to play games," said Murray. "Ray waited a long time to get some games. We'll ride Ray for as long as we can. He deserves that after sitting and waiting."

"I don't want to get ahead of myself," said Emery. "I'm excited to get a chance to play, but I'm taking it one step at a time."


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