Simply Sens-ational

Senators forward Dany Heatley celebrates his first-period goal against the Hurricanes last night at...

Senators forward Dany Heatley celebrates his first-period goal against the Hurricanes last night at Scotiabank Place. (Sun Media/Sean Kilpatrick)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

After a couple of days of rampant speculation, the dashed hopes and surprises that come with the trade deadline, now reality sets in.

In the Senators' case, reality is that even without a major move at the deadline, they are playing like a team that shapes up as a solid playoff contender.

They beat the defending Stanley Cup champions last night 2-0 with a solid, end-to-end effort, completing a back-to-back sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Reality in the Senators' case is they are on a 21-4-3 roll since the game before Christmas.

Reality is they closed out February with an 8-1-2 record.

They got goals from their big men last night, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza (who also assisted on Heatley's goal) and some solid play from goaltender Ray Emery, who picked up his 26th win and his fifth shutout of the season.

He preserved it with a spectacular diving glove stop on Carolina winger Justin Williams with just over two minutes to go in regulation time.

"We played real well early," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "We tried to do too much in the second and then we got back to work in the third. We had to test Ray a bit with some penalties in the third, but I thought we did a good job."

Spezza's goal was his 27th of the season, building on his single-season best, and was scored in dramatic fashion.

It further proves he is growing as both a setup man and a finisher. His previous single-season best was 22 goals in the 2003-04 season.

Spezza jumped out of the penalty box and beat Carolina goaltender Cam Ward with a crisp snapshot high to the glove corner, giving the Senators some breathing room.

They had nursed a 1-0 lead on Heatley's 38th of the season since just before the four-minute mark of the first period.

The Spezza goal was the tipping point of the game.

The Hurricanes looked like they were going to have a great chance to tie it up early in the third after Spezza was penalized for hooking and then Ottawa's Antoine Vermette was slapped with a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck into the penalty box area.

The 'Canes were set up with a 5-on-3 advantage for 72 seconds, but Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour was whistled for hooking right off the ensuing faceoff.

Spezza jumped out of the penalty box and snapped up a pass swatted up the ice by Ottawa defenceman Wade Redden.

The Senators solidified their grip on fourth place in the Eastern Conference with their 38th victory of the season, bumping their point total to 80. That's five more than the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have played two games less.

The Senators also pulled to within nine points of the Buffalo Sabres, who are first in the Eastern Conference and first in the Northeast Division.

Catching the injury-riddled Sabres will be next to impossible with just 18 games left -- especially since the Senators have completed with season series with the Sabres -- but getting their lead down to single digits at least raises the possibility.

After rallying with three-third period goals to win Tuesday night in Carolina, the Senators went with a different approach last night, showing they can play with a lead, too.

"In the third, I thought we took care of business," said Heatley.

Heatley had made it 1-0 at 3:54 of the first period, jumping on a rebound of a sharp-angled shot by Spezza. Heatley showed his quick hands, grabbing the puck near the goal line, shifting to his forehand and slipping the puck by Ward on the long side.

The Senators will travel to Atlanta today for a meeting with the Thrashers tomorrow night. They are in Chicago to face the Blackhawks and former teammate Martin Havlat on Sunday afternoon. 


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