Senators coach Bryan Murray sent a clear message to his team before last night's visit by the Montreal Canadiens.
Unhappy with the effort he's seen from his team since the all-star break two weeks ago, Murray shuffled every forward combination and came up a winner in a 4-1 victory over the Habs in front of 19,991 at Scotiabank Place.
"I'm not afraid to tell the guys when I'm not happy," said Murray after the win. "We weren't playing the way we were before the all-star break. We weren't checking the way we're capable of checking. The message to them was a loud and clear and we played harder as a result."
In the wake of a 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres only 24 hours earlier, Murray decided to shuffle all of the club's line combinations to end a two-game losing streak.
Dany Heatley, who was reunited with Jason Spezza on a line which also included Patrick Eaves on the right side, scored his 32nd of the season. Spezza had a goal and assist, while defenceman Chris Phillips and winger Peter Schaefer also scored as the Senators jumped a point ahead of Montreal into second in the Northeast Division.
The changes didn't stop with Spezza and Co. Mike Fisher was moved back to the middle to play with Schaefer and Daniel Alfredsson, while Mike Comrie and Antoine Vermette were on Chris Kelly's wings. All these changes landed Chris Neil on the fourth line with Dean McAmmond and Christoph Schubert.
"I'm happy tonight. We'll see tomorrow," said Murray. "They worked hard. I made a real point (with the players), that what I've been worried about lately is protecting people and I don't want to coach that way, where I'm trying to protect guys who are making mistakes without the puck or defensively. I thought everybody bought in and played real well in our end, as well as the other end."
The Senators got the kind of effort they needed in the opener of a home-and-home series against the Habs, which concludes tomorrow in Montreal (CBC, 7 p.m.).
Fisher was happy to be back in the middle.
"I just feel more comfortable there," he said. "The other thing is, it's easy to play with a guy like (Alfredsson) and I'm used to playing with (Schaefer)."
The key to the victory was Emery, who made the start for the second straight night. He made 27 stops. Some of his best came in the second period, when the Habs were pressing with a two-man advantage for a stretch of 1:25. When Emery wasn't shopping shots, defenceman Anton Volchenkov was blocking them. He finished with six.
The only blemish was a goal by Montreal's Guillaume Latendresse on a penalty shot with 2:28 left in the second. Referee Rob Shick awarded the shot after Phillips' high-stick Latendresse and cut his face. Not only was he awarded a penalty shot, the Senators were under the impression they would have had to kill off a double-minor if Latendresse hadn't scored.
"I think I've had it called one other time on me by Rob Shick when I was coaching in Anaheim in my first year," said Murray. "(Shick) eliminated two minutes because we scored on the penalty shot. If he didn't score, would we have gotten four minutes? I don't know. I've been in the league a little bit and I don't know that rule."