Havlat shoulders opening-night load

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

Martin Havlat only knows that it was a man from Colorado.

In death, the nameless benefactor helped play a role in the Senators' victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, for one night, anyway, becoming a part of Ottawa's comeback story in a 4-1 win, reversing the club's tendency for Opening Night flops.

"That's all I know. He's a guy from Colorado," Havlat said of the man from whom a piece of bone was taken, a gift that played a big part in the repair of his decimated right shoulder.

"And the funny thing is, the night before I had the surgery, the guys were playing in Colorado."

Havlat's shoulder was left in shambles when the talented Senators winger was checked and fell into the boards in a late November game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Dr. Anthony Miniaci had to file away the fracture in Havlat's shoulder joint and the bone graft was used to fill the groove left behind.

"It was pretty big," said Havlat, holding his fingers a couple of inches apart last night. "I needed him big time."

The summary will show his power-play goal last night tied the game 1-1 at 5:06 of the third period, but there is no underestimating its significance beyond that.

It looked like it was going to be another one of those opening nights for the Senators, a night of frustration, of wondering why their nerves could invade their sticks like termites and eat away the magic they displayed in the regular season as the NHL's highest-scoring team.

It looked like the Senators were bound to repeat a story played out three times previously in the opening night of the playoffs in their building.

Through two periods they were being stymied by Bolts goaltender John Grahame.

It could have been 1999.

Or 2001.

Or try 2003.

In those three years, the Senators started the playoffs at home.

They lost to Buffalo 2-1 in '99.

They were shut out 1-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2001 and were blanked again by the New York Islanders, 3-0, in 2003.

Three home Opening Nights, three losses, outscored 6-1.

It all changed with Havlat's goal.

Havlat scored the Senators' first goal last night on a beautiful deke in front of Grahame, taking a pass from Jason Spezza, getting Grahame moving to his left with a back-hand fake and then roofing a forehand into the top of the net.

FIRST GOAL SINCE INJURY

It was Havlat's first goal since the night he was injured and his first playoff goal since 2003.

"It felt good, especially to get it in the playoffs," he said. "But it doesn't matter who scores, it's just about winning."

After his goal, Havlat raced into the corner where a couple of his friends were sitting and got the chance to celebrate in front of them.

"I was lucky they were right there," he said. "I didn't score against the Leafs (in the Senators' seven-game loss in 2004), so it was nice to get one in the first game. It was nice to turn around the game tonight."

Spezza scored just 67 seconds after Havlat, on a rising shot to the short side, and Grahame's mojo disappeared.

Havlat -- and his nameless benefactor from Colorado --- did indeed turn things around.

WHERE'S THE PUCK?: As last night's game ended, the Senators on the ice wanted to get the game puck for goaltender Ray Emery, a custom most teams indulge in after a win.

Last night, the puck was shot into the Tampa zone as time expired. Senators winger Vaclav Varada went after it, but was stopped from going toward the Tampa bench by a linesman.

Bolts winger Tim Taylor appeared to scoop up the puck and take it off the ice.

"I thought they would shoot it to the referees," said Varada. "I don't know why they would pick it up, maybe to give it to the fans. I just wanted to get it for Rayzor (Emery). It's weird."

Emery dismissed the incident with his usual coolness.

"I'm not going to lose any sleep over it," he said, "but it's not the classiest move."

CHRIS.STEVENSON@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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