The Ottawa Senators are beginning to see some return on the trade that sent Dany Heatley to San Jose.
Milan Michalek registered his first three-goal game in the NHL, including a pair of shorthanded tallies, to spark Ottawa to a 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Place on Thursday night.
Michalek entered the night with only one point, a goal, in Ottawa's first five games; Jonathan Cheechoo, the other player acquired in the Heatley deal, had two assists.
But when Michalek connected on a power play midway through the third period complete his big night and to give the Senators a 6-1 lead, the hats started pouring onto the ice.
"To see all the people standing and clapping for me was an awesome feeling," Michalek said. "Hopefully, there's many goals to come."
Alex Kovalev, Alexandre Picard, Nick Foligno and Jarkko Ruutu also scored for the first-place Senators (4-2-0), who leaped back over the idle Buffalo Sabres in the Northeast Division. Goalie Pascal Leclaire had a relatively easy night, facing just 17 shots and stopping 16 of them.
"Obviously, we played good, but they didn't have a great game today," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who had three assists. "We get up a couple fairly early and they have to force it and go on the offense, which opens things up. It's a big confidence boost for us, but it's one of those games that kind of got a little bit out of hand for them."
Tampa Bay, which had won two in a row and entered the night tied for the Southeast Division lead, had only Ryan Malone's second-period goal to show for its efforts.
"Two shorthanded goals, it's embarrassing," coach Rick Tocchet said. "We gave one up against Florida (in a 3-2 win Monday night). I know it's only Game 6, but when you give up three shorthanded goals in two games, there's going to be some video, there's going to be some talking and there might be some changes.
"First place early in the season, two stinkers in a row, we're going to have to get to work tomorrow."
Alfredsson set up Kovalev's goal to start the scoring at 4:25 of the first, intercepting a bad pass by Martin St. Louis.
Midway through the period, Kovalev was serving a hooking penalty when Michalek and the Senators went on the attack. Michalek ended up knocking a rebound past Mike Smith with Ruutu assisting, and the Senators went up 2-0 at 10:22.
Penalties to Michalek and Matt Carkner early in the second set up a 5-on-3 advantage for the Lightning, but after Michalek got out of the box he took an Alfredsson feed and went in on a breakaway, beating Smith at 5:41 for a 3-0 lead.
"He was flying, obviously, and he was able to find a lot of openings and he could have had a couple of more with some luck," Alfredsson said. "He's very dangerous with his speed."
Picard scored just 34 seconds later, and the Senators continued to pour it on with Foligno's goal at 10:59 that extended their lead.
Malone made sure the Lightning would not be shut out when he scored his sixth of the season with 5:34 left in the second, but the Senators would add on in the third.
Michalek completed the hat trick with Ottawa on the man advantage this time, converting a spinning backhand pass by Jason Spezza. Spezza has been a regular linemate for Michalek and Cheechoo over the first half-dozen games.
"We've played six games together, so we're starting to be comfortable," Michalek said.
Ruutu capped the scoring with 2:59 remaining.
The Senators travel to Montreal for their next game Saturday, while the road for the Lightning doesn't get any easier -- next up is a game at Mellon Arena against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com
Material from wire services was used in this report