The game notes at Scotiabank Place last night said the warm-up for the Senators' annual Skills Competition starts today at 12:30 p.m.
Actually, it started last night at 7:08 p.m.
The Senators, bolstered by the return of captain Daniel Alfredsson (two goals and three assists) from a sore hip, scored three goals in the first five minutes on their way to a 6-1 win over the outclassed Montreal Canadiens, who had been hot on the Senators' heels for top spot in the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference.
Centre Jason Spezza had a career-high six-point night (first career hat trick, three assists) and Dany Heatley added a goal and three assists.
To save you the math, that's 15 points and an all-dressed night for The Pizza Line.
"It's a lot of fun," said Spezza of being reunited with his linemates. "Those guys were really good tonight, real hungry and they were feeding me the puck. When you get two early like that, I had a good idea I'd get a chance at (the hat trick). It was nice to get it quick."
"We needed the two points to pull away a bit," said Alfredsson. "We need to get on a roll and distance ourselves. This was an important game after losing to them Tuesday and Toronto did us a favour (beating them) Thursday. This was a big game."
Alfredsson now has four goals and seven assists in four games against the Canadiens this season and the Habs, who were poised to get themselves within a point of the Senators this week, now find themselves five back this morning.
The burning questions for the Canadiens today are:
1. Find out how goaltender Cristobal Huet wound up with Ray Emery's alarm clock;
2. What do they do about Alfredsson?;
3. Could the NHL schedule maker not have them play the Senators on Hockey Day in Canada?
The Senators blitzed the Habs 8-3 last year on HDIC, chasing Huet from the net after he gave up six goals in about 24 minutes.
His average took a bigger beating last night as he got off to a slow start and was chased from the net before the game was five minutes old. He gave up three goals on the first four shots of the game. Spezza tipped in a shot at 22 seconds, tapped in a loose puck behind a sprawled Huet at 1:42 and assisted on Alfredsson's goal from the edge of the slot at 4:45. Enter rookie Carey Price in the Montreal net.
NO CHANTING FOR FANS
"There were a lot of Montreal fans and they took the 'ole' out of the game early," said Senators coach John Paddock. "It's probably their most impressive performance as a line this season, especially when it's a four-point swing against a big division rival."
Despite the sometimes-infuriating inconsistency the Senators have displayed this season and despite annoying their fans by losing to teams much below them in the standings, the Senators have shown a tendency to rise to the occasion this season, which might be a mild comfort. When they were faced with a showdown with the Red Wings last month in a battle of the two top teams in their respective conferences, the Senators scored a 3-2 win.
Emery was solid in the Ottawa net as the Canadiens outshot the Senators 34-28. His second straight victory means he will likely be in net Tuesday when the Senators host the Buffalo Sabres.