Sunny time in the South

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Senators will get the chance to visit with team owner Eugene Melnyk today at his big horse farm north of here.

The Senators looked like the thoroughbreds last night, running away from the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning for their fifth win in a row, 4-0 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Senators, who beat the Bolts for the seventh consecutive time, continue to jockey for top spot in the Eastern Conference, but haven't been able to catch the Carolina Hurricanes, who won again last night, beating the New York Rangers 2-1.The 'Canes have 90 points to Ottawa's 87 with the Senators holding a game in hand.

The Senators used what's becoming a familiar script for the win last night: Very solid goaltending from rookie Ray Emery, who had his second shutout of the season, and a big goal from the Jason Spezza-Dany Heatley-Daniel Alfredsson combo.

"Just playing more, I'm more comfortable," said Emery, who made 31 saves. "A big part is the boys are giving me a lead a lot of nights. Playing more has just let me be more comfortable in different situations in the game."

With the score 1-0 in the second and the Lightning having their fair share of chances, Heatley threaded a nice backhand pass between Tampa's Brad Richards and Darryl Sydor to Spezza in the slot. Spezza's shot beat Tampa goaltender Sean Burke to make it 2-0 at 11:38 of the middle period.

"Razor knew this was a big opportunity," said Spezza. "He wanted to show everybody he could play and be a starter in the future. He's happy right now being a backup, but he wants to show he can do it. We had confidence in him even when he struggled."

Ninety-one seconds after Spezza's goal, Mike Fisher made it 3-0 with a soft goal, his 20th score of the season, over Burke's glove hand from 40 feet out. Peter Schaefer scored in the third.

Goaltending has been an issue for the Lightning lately with veteran Burke getting the call last night in place of John Grahame, who has had a couple of sub-par outings lately. "He's been erratic," was the way Tampa coach John Tortorella put it, so Burke got his first start in a month.

Grahame was scored upon just 12 seconds into Saturday night's loss to the Montreal Canadiens, so Burke can at least look at his improvement in that department. The Senators scored 21/2 minutes into last night's game as defenceman-turned-forward Christoph Schubert made a nice play to set up Antoine Vermette for his 14th goal of the season.

Burke actually played pretty well for a while, coming up with a big-league save on Heatley in the second when the score was still 1-0. He didn't have much of a chance on Spezza's goal, which came on a screened shot from the slot to make it 2-0, but on Fisher's? Yeesh.

That was a backbreaker, giving the Senators a three-goal lead.

Tampa's Evgeny Artyukhin then put the Lightning in a tough spot when he got a match penalty for deliberately attempting to injure at 17:53 of the second after he kabonged Vermette over the head with Vermette's helmet during a scrum in front of the Tampa bench.

"I wasn't surprised. He's well known for doing that sort of thing," said Vermette, who took three or four stitches on his head to close a gash. "He gave me a questionable check and I was not happy and I let him know it. I gave him a glove in the face...we won, so I'll take it."

"I've never seen a player take the helmet off the head of another player and hit him in the head with it," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "We talk about respect among the players all the time. That's high in the category. I'm not sure why he did it."


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