It was a red tide.
Sens fans surged to Scotiabank Place last night long before game time to toast their team in the beer tent, mark their faces with team colours and reach out to touch the dream -- an inflated Stanley Cup.
"The atmosphere, the emotion -- it's alive," said Orleans retiree Bob Ryan, a Sens fan from Day 1. "It's even better than a Toronto game. When Toronto's here there's rivalry. When Montreal's here there's rivalry. This is Ottawa against the world.
"I wouldn't want to be a Tampa fan coming in here."
Luckily, there wasn't a Lightning jersey in sight because local fans are convinced the Sens will win the Cup this year.
Kingston resident Chris Ouimet, 26, sported a Leafs jersey with the emblem crossed out and paraded -- to the red crowd's jeers -- with a golf bag aloft. That's the only thing the Leafs, shut out of the playoffs, had to do, he joked.
"It's Sens time," said Ouimet. "It's our time. I'm sick of Canada just cheering for the Leafs."
Sens fever has spread to the Limestone City, Ouimet said.
CHEERS FOR OLYMPIANS
"Ottawa's gaining a big stronghold in Kingston," he said.
Inside Scotiabank Place, anyone without a jersey stuck out.
Fans clapped politely for the Star Spangled Banner but booed the Lightning lineup. They sang along lustily and cheered as a montage of Canadian Olympic athletes was played during O Canada.
The cheering got louder as the lights dropped in the arena and the red light pulsed around the packed stands.
It reached an ear-splitting crescendo when their team skated out onto the ice.
Danica Maiorino, 8, couldn't wait for intermission.
She won tickets for her mom, dad and little brother and an intermission ride in front of a full house of fans on the same ice her heroes skate. "I really like the Sens -- I want to be close to the ice," explained the little girl, eyes wide beneath her Sens-red hair.
The little fan knows everything about her team, even studying players' statistics in dad Luigi's program every time he brings one home from a game.
"She's daddy's dream come true," joked mom Natalie.
The tiniest fan had to be newborn Dominic Rauche of Carleton Place whose dad, Steve, tried -- but failed -- to name his son after Dominik Hasek.
Baby Dominic was wide-eyed in his Sens toque as big sister Renee, 3, taught him all he needed to know about hockey.
"Go Sens Go," she said, clapping her hands in mom Louise's arms. "They'll do good. They'll win."