Sens figure out Howe to do it

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

TAMPA -- It was a night of firsts for Dany Heatley. His first NHL playoff goal.

His first NHL fight.

And, by adding a helper, his first NHL "Gordie Howe."

Teams that have had a player scrap, score and draw an assist in the same 60 minutes this season like Heatley did in Game 3's pounding of the Lightning on Tuesday apparently have a 16-1-1 record.

So, it's not like it would be a bad sign if someone were to turn the trick when the Senators try and take a 3-1 series stranglehold here this evening, right?

"He did a good job," Jason Spezza said yesterday of Heatley's scrap with defenceman Nolan Pratt in the final minutes of the 8-4 victory. "He tied him up, he didn't open up so he didn't take any bombs and he threw a couple of quick little rights.

"I was proud of him."

"I don't want Dany to fight, he shouldn't be the guy to do it," coach Bryan Murray said of his 50-goal sniper. "But he stood up and did the job. He knows how. He's a Canadian boy."

Another "Canadian boy" who has been in a total of 84 NHL fights the past five seasons also received kudos for doing his job and he didn't brawl at all.

Instead, Chris Neil worked his way under the skin of the opposition, to the point where Lightning enforcer Chris Dingman jumped and pummeled him with Ottawa holding a 5-2 lead early in the third.

Tampa coach John Tortorella basically repeated yesterday what he had said the night before. And that was to preach the virtues of discipline.

Dingman's actions gave Ottawa a seven-minute power play, which it used to blow open the game 7-2.

Neil, who was therefore as good in his role as two-goal scorer Martin Havlat was in his, will be out to do more of the same tonight.

FEWER FIGHTS

"The biggest thing is, if they come after me, that's what I want," he said yesterday. "I just keep going after their skilled guys, finish my checks, do the right thing and hopefully they keep coming after me."

Neil's fight numbers were down this season. In 2001-02, he had a combined 22 scraps in the pre- and regular season. In 2002-03, he had 18, including playoffs. And in 2003-04, he totalled 28.

But this year, with the emergence of rookie Brian McGrattan, Neil has only fought 12 times, including nine in the regular campaign.

He was also the only NHLer to score at least 16 goals and record more than 200 penalty minutes.

"I think I picked my spots pretty good this year," he said. "I've been more disciplined. I haven't had to fight as much, which has (taken) a little pressure off. You learn from experience. You don't want to give the other team any momentum.

"Even if I go in and fight Dingman and I win the fight, the fans are into it and they can draw some momentum off it. (At that point) we've got them down and out and they're just trying to grab some momentum."

The Lightning's frustrations boiled over with just over two minutes to play when Vaclav Varada, who's again at his agitating best, set off a rumble. Along with the Heatley-Pratt fight, it led to a scrap between Zdeno Chara and Vincent Lecavalier.

Chara won it, and had Lecavalier down on the ice when he raised his right hand and decided against destroying the Tampa star.

Neil scoffed at suggestions Heatley and Chara had to fight because he didn't.

"They can handle themselves, like they did," he said.

"You look at the guys they were fighting, too. Vinny Lecavalier will stand in there, but he's not known as a fighter. Same with Nolan Pratt."

Heatley, who couldn't exactly pinpoint his last scrap other than "it was probably in junior," played down all the extra-curricular stuff.

"I don't think it was a very big deal," he said. "(Varada) ran their guy, and created a little scuffle ... whatever. It's part of the game.

"That melee was more of a sideshow. I thought we played really well," added Heatley. "We were aggressive, we went at them.

"For us, Game 4 is really important, I think. We have to keep playing that way. We're an in-your-face team, we go at the other team, and that's what we did (Tuesday night)."

Heatley didn't celebrate a lot upon scoring his first playoff goal, admitting that "they don't come much easier."

The Senators had a 5-on-3 power play at the time, and Spezza presented him with an open net.

The fact he did finally get one, however, bodes well for the Senators, as it would suggest the puck is about to again start going where he tells it to go.

To date, they've managed to take a 2-1 series lead on the defending champs with their best scorer having the same number of fights as goals.

Who would have guessed that?


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