TORONTO -- Marian Hossa and the Senators were in full flight last night at the Air Canada Centre.
The Ottawa winger took his game to another level with a two-goal performance as the Senators shocked the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 in the opener of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Not only did Hossa score the winner, he also salted the game away with a spectacular goal 1:39 into the third period. When the Leafs' Ed Belfour charged out of his net as Hossa roared in on a breakaway, the Senators winger went airborne but still managed to knock the puck into the net.
The Senators, who held a 30-17 edge in shots, were in control from then on in stealing home-ice advantage away from the Leafs.
"We came out strong and we really wanted to win this first game," said Hossa. "We talked a lot about making sure we got the job done, but we know this is going to be a long series.
"We can enjoy this for now, but there's a lot of work left."
The Sens' best players were their top performers last night and that was the difference. Defenceman Wade Redden and centre Bryan Smolinski also scored for Ottawa, while Bryan McCabe and Joe Nieuwendyk had Toronto's goals. Winger Martin Havlat also had two assists for the Senators.
"We played a strong game," said Senators defenceman Zdeno Chara, who was a physical force. "Obviously, they were trying to be aggressive and we dealt with it pretty well. What we're trying not to do is worry about them. We're focused on what we have to do and that's the difference."
The turning point came on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period, with Ottawa down 2-1 and pressing to even matters. Redden quickly tied it during the two-man advantage, and Hossa struck 38 seconds later as the NHL's No. 1-ranked power play made an impact.
The two-man edge, which happened with Mikael Renberg (hooking) and McCabe (slashing) in the penalty box, left Toronto coach Pat Quinn upset.
"I don't like the phantom penalties," said Quinn. "I really don't know where the call on Renberg came from. I'm not just talking about phantom penalties against us, I'm talking about phantom penalties on both sides."
The Senators, meanwhile, received a break on the opening goal by Smolinski, which deflected off defenceman Bryan Marchment and by Belfour. "We needed that kind of break, but I thought it was the result of good forechecking," said Smolinski.
Perhaps one of the most promising signs was the return of goaltender Patrick Lalime to the Senators net. He didn't look good on McCabe's second goal, but had to make big stops in the third.
"I thought Patrick was strong. He made some key stops," said Senators coach Jacques Martin.
More than anything, this was a big confidence boost. "It means a lot," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "But it's only one game. We gave ourselves a chance to win by playing a strong game. Now we have to keep it going."
Game 2 is tomorrow at the ACC (7 p.m., CBC, RDS).
WIN SENS TICKETS!
When we announced we were giving away a pair of Sens tickets to Game 3 of the series against Toronto, we couldn't have anticipated we'd be swamped with entries. More than 1,400 of them.
Of course, Todd White scored the final goal for the Senators in their 2002 playoff loss to the Leafs.
And Tyler Filion was the winner.
Don't despair, though. We've managed to get our hands on another pair of tickets, for Game 4 on Wednesday at the Corel Centre. Same rules apply. Contest deadline will be Sunday at midnight. We'll let the winner know early Monday.
Just tell us who was the last Senator to score a game-winning goal in overtime.
Send your answers to us at email@example.com.
What a start!
BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun
, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET