Gerber Banks a victory

Ottawa Senators' Josh Hennessy (right) celebrates his first NHL goal with Patrick Eaves in a game...

Ottawa Senators' Josh Hennessy (right) celebrates his first NHL goal with Patrick Eaves in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. (Ottawa Sun/Sean Kilpatrick)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

John Muckler is around his team now and the Senators general manager can feel a new undercurrent there.

There's something different there from the first half of the season, more of an edge.

Maybe a whiff of desperation, too.

"It's taken on a new personality," he said after the Senators manhandled the last-place Flyers 6-1 at Scotiabank Place yesterday.

"I think there's more of a fear of losing. I like the desire they've shown. They knew this was a crucial time with the number of games we have at home and being shorthanded. Somebody had to take charge and the veterans have done the job. They deserve a lotof credit. They are the heartbeat of this hockey club."

You know who they are. Captain Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley up front and Wade Redden and Chris Phillips on the blue line, all of them raising their play.

They were there again yesterday as they have been during this stretch, which has seen the Senators missing three of their top-five scorers in Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette.

Chris Kelly stood tall yesterday as he has done a marvelous job filling in for Spezza, out with a knee injury.

Heatley (two goals and an assist), Kelly (goal and an assist) and Alfredsson (goal and two assists) combined for eight points yesterday and were a combined +14 on the day as the Senators have now won six of their last eight (6-1-1) and helped deliver Martin Gerber his first home win of the season.

(Who would have thought it would be the "07" portion of the 2006-07 season before he left the ice to cheers at Scotiabank Place?)

That bodes well for the Senators. If they can get Gerber going, they could have one of the best tandems in the league with Ray Emery emerging as a bona fide starter.

"We really went after them and kind of wore them down. That makes life a lot easier," said Gerber, who faced 21 shots with the Flyers' only goal, by R.J. Umberger, coming on a breakaway.

"Everybody was at it and it's good to have a win at home, for sure."

HENNESSY NETS FIRST

Defenceman Joe Corvo and forward Josh Hennessy, with his first NHL goal, rounded out the scoring against the Flyers, now 11-27-4 on the season and last in the NHL.

"We play that way, we don't belong in the league," said Flyers forward Sami Kapanen.

Okay, so it was a win against the Flyers, but the Senators did what they were supposed to do.

Ottawa knew getting on the Flyers early was the key and the Senators' strong work ethic, which has characterized their play lately, was too much for the talent-thin Flyers.

"You know there's confidence issues when a team is struggling like that," said Heatley, who upped his goal total to 25 and was +5 on the day. "You get on them early and it's easier for sure."

The Senators did the best thing they could have done for Gerber, giving him an early lead with which to work.

Of course it all begins and ends with Alfredsson, who prepared the ground for his own goal at 6:59 of the first, his 12th of the season, and Corvo's, his sixth, at 16:29.

Alfredsson's game, which has been gathering momentum over the last few weeks, is rooted in an uncompromising work ethic, poise and skill. Both goals were the result of all three, with Alfredsson dictating the pace and direction of play in the Flyers' zone,controlling the puck along the boards, holding the puck until teammates could get in position for a strike.

The Senators, now tied for fifth in the East and just three points behind the struggling Canadiens in fourth spot, host the Bruins tomorrow night.


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