Senators of excellence

There are a number of reasons why the Senators are first overall. (Sun Media File/Jason Ransom)

There are a number of reasons why the Senators are first overall. (Sun Media File/Jason Ransom)

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

In the moments after the christening of the NHL's newest facility, the losers dwelled on their weaknesses, both mentally and physically, and they also spoke of the winners, using more double negatives.

"They're not 9-1 for no reason," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said of the Senators.

Indeed, there are a number of reasons why Ottawa is first overall. From the first line back, the start of the game to the end.

"Obviously, when the team plays well, individuals are good, too," said defenceman Andrej Meszaros, who scored the first goal in Prudential Center history and now appears to have his career back on track after suffering as a sophomore.

"Last year was a little different. We had a bad start and I didn't play well. This year we've had a good start and I'm kind of feeling comfortable and I'm playing better than last year."

Martin Gerber, who won only three of his first dozen games as a Senator, is now 7-1 with the most victories in the NHL. Gerber stopped all 18 shots the pumped-up Devils fired at him in the first period, then another 13 before the night was done.

The only one to beat him was the "fluke" that went in off Anton Volchenkov's skate in the second period. But the visitors reacted to that bounce better than the home team.

"It's an even-up game going into the third and we make a mistake around the net," New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said, blaming defenceman Johnny Oduya's light grip in the battle with Antoine Vermette that led to the winning goal.

"A guy drops his stick and we get soft around the net. Ottawa stayed with it and we mentally broke."

Said Devils winger Jay Pandolfo: "I'm worried that we're not playing desperate enough. We're weak mentally."

Senators coach John Paddock, on the other hand, has his team sharp. He did break up the Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson troika for a while when he thought the Devils' checkers were taking liberties.

"I didn't like what (David) Clarkson was doing to Heatley, so I switched the lines," said Paddock. "Our star players aren't going to be abused."

Before the game, Paddock stressed that because the ice was bad, the Senators were to limit their pretty passing and stickhandling. Play hard below the offensive faceoff dots, he told his players, and success will follow.

Sure enough, Shean Donovan's second goal as a Senator (and second winner in as many games) was the result of the determination of Vermette and Chris Kelly deep in New Jersey territory, and the insurance marker by Mike Fisher, while coming on the power play, stemmed from the work of Randy Robitaille and Patrick Eaves behind the goal line.

'KEPT IT SIMPLE'

"We just kept it simple and had a couple of shifts there where we didn't necessarily get any awesome shifts out front, but we just grinded it out down low ," Donovan said of the team's fourth line that had some dominating moments.

"Sometimes you just need shifts out there to get it going a bit."

Alfredsson also noted that in the good start, the Senators have finished well.

"Our power play has done a good job of coming up with very timely goals, especially in the third period," he said.

"That's the way our season has gone so far. We seem to be better in the third period."


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