'A great opportunity'

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. (SUN/Errol McGihon)

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. (SUN/Errol McGihon)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

Instead of booking another trip to the Sunshine State this spring, Daniel Alfredsson would rather stay closer to home.

Leading their first-round playoff series 3-1, the Senators can send the Tampa Bay Lightning packing tonight with a Game 5 victory at Scotiabank Place.

"This is a great opportunity," said Alfredsson. "We don't want to have to go back to Florida. We obviously know that this is the biggest game of the year for us and we want to go out there and set the tone right away."

After winning two straight at the St. Pete Times Forum -- including a 5-2 victory Thursday -- the Senators can smell blood and don't want to give Tampa a new life.

If the Bolts can get a win, it would give them a chance to square the series on home ice Monday night. That's why the best-case scenario for Ottawa is to end it tonight.

"You get a team down 3-1, you want to close it out in your own building. You want to put the final nail in the coffin," said Senators centre Jason Spezza.

An added bonus: A victory tomorrow would earn the Senators some much-needed rest before the second round.

Nobody would appreciate that more than defenceman Chris Phillips, who is nursing a lower body injury (he limped off the ice in Tampa after a collision along the boards). He'll be a game-time decision today.

"He was in here (yesterday) and he was feeling much better, but we're going to have to wait and see," said coach Bryan Murray.

But Phillips isn't alone in the injury department.

Centre Chris Kelly has had issues with his upper and lower body, while centre Mike Fisher is playing with a full cage because he took a puck near the eye in Game 3 that produced some major swelling.

Still, the minor setbacks haven't hurt the Senators. While they didn't have a great performance in a 4-3 loss in Game 2, they've dominated Tampa for the most part.

Alfredsson was asked if he was concerned about the club's lack of consistency through the series. Ottawa did have a poor start before pouring it on Game 4.

BIG GUNS STEP IT UP

It's no accident the heroes for the Senators have been Martin Havlat, Dany Heatley, Wade Redden, Spezza and Alfredsson. They were the players who were called out by GM John Muckler and Murray after the Game 2 loss to step it up.

"I think the last six periods, we've been pretty consistent," said Alfredsson. "We've seen what we can do when we've got everybody working hard.

"Look, you're not going to be consistent every game, but if we can have a good (35 or 40) minutes, then we've probably got a good chance of winning every game. I think what we're finding out right now is just how good we can be as a team."

But the Senators know one way to get the Lightning down tonight is by setting the right tone early on.

"We're at home and we want to be the ones who come storming out of the gate and make it tough on them," said Spezza.

Lightning coach John Tortorella was quick to heap praise on the Senators following a light workout in Ottawa after a morning flight from Tampa.

"We're playing a pretty good hockey team and Ottawa deserves credit," said Tortorella. "I've never seen a team that is so opportunistic. You make a mistake and they make it end up in the net. They make you pay. If we're going to win this game, we have to be at our best."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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