Real Senators standing up

SHANE ROSS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

With the snow melting, birds singing and bartenders dusting off the patio furniture, nobody wants to turn the calendar back to October.

Except, perhaps, the Ottawa Senators.

Can you take a mulligan on the first half of a season?

With 11 games left and a playoff spot nearly out of reach, the Senators are suddenly playing like everyone at the beginning of the season thought they would.

"Better to do it now than not at all," said Daniel Alfredsson. "All we can do is control our effort and try to keep it going."

Last night's 5-2 win over the Islanders was their fourth straight -- seventh straight at home -- and eighth in their last nine games.

Yes, the real Ottawa Senators appear to have please stood up.

Standing behind them, again, are the fans. The crowd of 19,751 was also their fourth straight sellout.

The real Mike Fisher also stood up. He got an ovation when he scored his 12th of the season, and an even louder one when he picked a fight with Joel Rechlicz after Rechlicz drilled Chris Phillips into the boards.

Fisher said it felt good to drop the gloves.

"It's been a while since I've had one," he said, rubbing his bruised knuckle.

The real Jason Spezza continues to stand up. He kept his nine-game point streak alive with an assist on Dany Heatley's goal. By continuing his strong finish, he could at least make amends to the frustrated souls who expected more than 64 points by now when they picked him in their pools.

The real Alfredsson has been standing up all season. He has come back early from injuries, plays hard every shift and got three more assists last night -- one on a precision pass across the slot to Filip Kuba, who one-timed it past Islanders goalie Yann Danis -- to increase his team-leading point total to 71.

'KEPT IT SIMPLE'

Beating the Islanders, who have the worst record in the NHL, may seem like no great feat. There are no Mike Bossys or Denis Potvins on this team. (Although Brendan Witt's hair is looking a lot like Bob Nystrom's.) But last night was the first time in four tries this season that the Senators managed to beat the Islanders.

It was also the first time they've played the Isles with Cory Clouston behind the bench. Clouston is now 14-6-3 since taking over from the fired Craig Hartsburg.

"Our confidence is high," said Clouston. "We kept it simple, got the pucks in deep and created havoc around the net."

Chris Neil celebrated his 500th career NHL game by giving the Senators a 1-0 lead 28 seconds into the second period. Danis got a good piece of the shot, but it trickled over the line for Neil's third of the season and first since Nov. 6.

Fisher batted home a bouncing puck for the Senators' third goal, and before the PA guy could finish announcing it, Heatley scored his 34th of the season to put the Sens up 4-0, the most goals they've scored in a period all season.

"We're playing with more energy, having fun," said Fisher.

Brian Elliott gave up two third-period goals to rookie Josh Bailey and hung on to win his eighth straight -- extending his team record for a Senators rookie.

"The only time we let the foot off the pedal was in the third for a bit," said Elliott. "They're feeling good in front of me and I'm feeling good behind them."

The Senators will now try to stand up on the road as they begin a six-game trip in New York vs. the Rangers tonight.

SHANE.ROSS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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