For the Ottawa Senators, the script remained the same in their season opener - Dany Heatley torments the Toronto Maple Leafs, the penalty killers do their jobs and they leave Air Canada Centre with a victory.
The Senators now look to extend their mastery over their provincial rivals and complete a sweep of the home-and-home series as the Maple Leafs visit Scotiabank Place on Thursday for the reigning Eastern Conference champions' home opener.
The creation of the unbalanced schedule and emphasis by the NHL on regional rivalries after the end of the lockout in 2005 have resulted in the Senators (1-0-0) and Maple Leafs (0-0-1) opening each of the three seasons at Toronto. Heatley - fresh off signing a six-year, $45 million extension Wednesday - has played a pivotal role in Ottawa returning home with a victory on each occasion.
In his Senators debut in 2005, he scored the clinching goal in the shootout. Last season, he assisted on Ottawa's first two goals in a 4-1 victory. On Wednesday, Heatley tied the game at 3 with 5:36 left in regulation and then netted the game-winner 2:57 into overtime in helping Ottawa improve to 13-2-2 versus Toronto since the lockout ended.
"It was nice, it was nice," Heatley said of his big day. "I had a couple of shots early and didn't get the shots through. It was nice to get a couple of chances in the third (and in overtime) and finish."
The two-time 50-goal scorer has pounded the Maple Leafs for 16 goals - three game-winners - and 15 assists in 17 games with the Senators. Veteran right wing Daniel Alfredsson, also a long-time antagonist of the Leafs, added a goal and has 21 in 52 lifetime games versus Toronto.
"We have to play better than we did tonight in some aspects of the game, but we found a way to win, which this group has got used to doing," said Senators coach John Paddock after winning his debut. "And I'm glad they did it tonight."
While the Maple Leafs have yet to find a way to slow Heatley, they also have yet to figure out Ottawa's penalty killing. In the three season-opening losses, Toronto is 1-for-24 with the man advantage, including 0-for-7 on Wednesday.
There were some positives for Toronto. Nik Antropov scored two goals and Andrew Raycroft made many quality saves among his 26. Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin assisted on both of Antropov's goals, and remained one goal shy of tying Darryl Sittler's team record of 389.
"I thought we played a pretty good hockey game," Sundin said. "We did a lot of good things. I don't think there was one part of the game that we were outplayed or outmatched. We'll take the point."
Sundin, who is also five points shy of tying Sittler's franchise record of 916, is 23rd all-time with 523 goals, one behind Bryan Trottier.
Senators goaltender Martin Gerber - filling in for the injured Ray Emery - had 29 saves and is 4-1 against the Maple Leafs since signing with Ottawa last season.
Last season, the Maple Leafs spoiled Ottawa's home opener with a 6-0 rout to salvage a split of the home-and-home.
|Apr 03 '08||OTT 8 at TOR 2||C. Bass|
|Mar 22 '08||TOR 5 at OTT 4||M. Stajan|
|Feb 25 '08||TOR 5 at OTT 0||M. Sundin|
|Feb 02 '08||OTT 2 at TOR 4||C. Colaiacovo|
|Nov 17 '07||OTT 0 at TOR 3||D. Tucker|
|Nov 06 '07||TOR 1 at OTT 5||P. Eaves|
|Oct 04 '07||TOR 2 at OTT 3||D. Alfredsson|
|Oct 03 '07||OTT 4 at TOR 3 - OT||D. Heatley|