WASHINGTON -- The buzz might be all about outstanding rookie Alexander Ovechkin, but the Senators' kids shone brightest yesterday.
Led by some gritty play by 21-year-old rookie Patrick Eaves and a great effort from Jason Spezza, 22, the Senators wrapped up their five-game road trip with a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
Eaves paid the price all day yesterday and was a perfect example of the type of effort that's required to score goals in the NHL at this point of the season.
Murray has been looking for someone to go to the net on the line with Spezza and Dany Heatley and Eaves did that.
He scored the Senators' first goal for a 1-0 lead -- his 13th of the season -- as he was getting hammered to the ice in front of the Caps' net by Washington defenceman Steve Eminger with a cross check.
"He got abused (yesterday) and kept going back for more," said Spezza of Eaves. "He worked hard and kept going at them. He was going hard all night to the net."
"That was the emphasis (today) from the coach," said Eaves. "If you get to the front of the net with those guys (Spezza and Heatley), the puck tends to get there a lot. I just tried to make it a tough night for (Caps goaltender Olaf) Kolzig."
As he hit the ice face-first, Eaves still managed to get his stick on the rebound of an Andrej Meszaros shot and hooked it behind Caps goaltender Olaf Kolzig.
Later, Eaves looked like he got drilled by another of Meszaros' shots in front and gave the Senators a four-minute advantage when he was clipped in the face by the highstick of Washington's Kris Beech (the backend of that double-minor was erased when Ottawa defenceman Zdeno Chara was chased for holding).
"He's a quality kid," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "He played well there (with Spezza and Heatley)."
The Senators also got a first-period goal by defenceman Wade Redden.
The Senators took control of the second period as they outshot the Caps 10-3 and got the only goal of the period, a breakaway score by Spezza, his 17th of the season.
After Emery made a save on a hard shot, Senators winger Dany Heatley took the rebound and sent Spezza away on a breakaway. He beat Kolzig for his 17th goal of the season at 7:57 of the second.
The rest of the period was just some hard work by the Senators in their own zone to limit the Capitals' chances.
The Senators, who pulled to within one point of Eastern Conference-leading Carolina with yesterday's win, did what they were supposed to do against some of the league's lesser lights on this trip. But now just where they stand will become a lot clearer over the next couple of weeks. Four out of the five games on this trip were against non-playoff teams and the other was against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team which is dropping like Paris Hilton's pants.
Over the next nine games, the Senators will face seven playoff teams, including Tampa, Buffalo (twice), New Jersey (twice), Philadelphia and the New York Rangers.
Those games will certainly give the Senators and their fans a better indication of where they stand in their development.
"It was nice to get the wins against the teams we're supposed to beat," said Spezza. "What people don't realize is these guys are playing for their jobs. We took a night off against Florida and paid the price (in a 6-2 loss)."
The assist by Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson on Redden's goal gave him 80 points on the season, tying his single-season career high, set in the 2003-04 season (32-48-80).
The Senators lost winger Peter Schaefer with an hip flexor injury yesterday.
He will be evaluated today.