Heatley steps it up

Ottawa Senators Dany Heatley zooms past Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen during first...

Ottawa Senators Dany Heatley zooms past Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen during first period NHL action at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa Monday, April 3, 2006.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

On a night they put a letter and a lot of weight on Dany Heatley's shoulders, the Senators winger accepted both and stood up.

Heatley's two goals in a 6-4 win over the Atlanta Thrashers last night gave him 45 on the season, equalling Marian Hossa's single-season team record with Hossa in the house and a whole bunch of Senators regulars somewhere else.

Heatley and Hossa (along with defenceman Greg De Vries) were swapped in August and will never be able to escape comparison. After Hossa dominated the first couple of meetings, it was Heatley's turn to grab hold of the moment last night.

Did the Senators need it?

You bet.

With captain Daniel Alfredsson unable to play because of the flu, the Senators were without seven regulars last night. Heatley was given an "A" as an alternate captain for last night's game, joining forward Bryan Smolinski and defenceman Brian Pothier, who have been wearing them in the absence of blueliners Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden.

The Senators needed Heatley and centre Jason Spezza to elevate their games last night and they did. Spezza had a goal and two assists as the Senators' power play went 3-for-5, capitalizing on a couple of 5-on-3s.

"I guess I know what place I'm in here now," joked Heatley about the honour of being given a letter. "It was nice. We have a lot of great leaders on this team whether they're wearing 'A's or not.

"That's the way it was (last) night. A bunch of guys stepped up for us. This will be great for us. We've got eight games left and we just want to keep peaking, getting ready for the playoffs."

Heatley's and Hossa's names will always be intertwined. Heatley had asked for a trade from the Thrashers, desiring a change in scenery after the car accident in the fall of 2003 which claimed the life of teammate Dan Snyder.

The Senators were looking to deal Hossa after he was awarded about $6 million a season in arbitration and no longer fit into the Senators salary structure.

Now the two are linked in the Senators record book until Heatley' next goal.

"I thought (Heatley) had played hard the last couple of games in particular and he definitely earned it," said Senators coach Bryan Murray of naming Heatley an alternate.

With Heatley and Spezza leading the way, the Senators maintained their three-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes for top spot in the Eastern Conference.

They got another great night out of blue line with Andrej Meszaros leading the way once again in the absence of Chara, Redden and Chris Phillips.

"Our young 'D' learned from those three guys and they're playing well when they get the chance," said Heatley. "Mez played almost another 30 minutes (last) night. (The win) is a credit to everybody in the room."

Heatley pulled to within one of Hossa's record when he opened the scoring at 16:40 of a slow first period, with Hossa on the ice.

Hossa tied the game with his 34th of the season 90 seconds into the second and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Thrashers the lead less than a minute later. Both goals came with Ottawa defenceman Anton Volchenkov in the box.

The Senators then flexed their own power-play muscles, getting three straight goals with the man advantage from Spezza, Patrick Eaves and Heatley.

Smolinski and enforcer Brian McGrattan rounded out the scoring in the third for the Senators, who play in Buffalo tomorrow night.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com

Senators 6

Thrashers 4


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