OTTAWA - Although it was the sixth goal in a 7-3 win, it was probably one of the most satisfying goals of the season so far for Dany Heatley.
Heatley scored twice while Antoine Vermette had a goal and two assists as the Ottawa Senators defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 7-3 Saturday night at Scotiabank Place.
Nick Foligno, Chris Kelly, Joseph Corvo and Andrej Meszaros also scored for the Senators (21-7-1) who were playing their first home game in two weeks. Jason Spezza had two assists.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice for the Thrashers (14-17-1) while Eric Perrin had the other goal. Marian Hossa had two assists in the loss.
Heatley's second goal came just seconds after he and Corvo stepped out of the penalty box and were sent in on a two-on-one break. Corvo passed, Heatley converted.
Heatley was in the penalty box for mouthing off to the referee after Corvo was given a penalty for cross-checking 10 minutes into the third period. The Thrashers had just scored on a five-on-three advantage to make it 5-3 and now the Senators were facing another two-man disadvantage, this time for a full two minutes.
"It's the point in the game where we were a little bit frustrated after getting called for three or four (penalties) in a row," Heatley said, then recounted a conversation he had after the goal with Daniel Alfredsson.
"I was joking with Alfie that if they scored on that five-on-three and they end up tying it up, you're a big goat. So it was nice to get a chance to score that goal."
The win was the fifth straight for the Senators since they snapped a seven-game winless streak. The Thrashers, meanwhile, have now lost four straight.
Johan Hedberg started in goal for Atlanta but he was pulled in the second period after allowing five goals on 24 shots. Kari Lehtonen took over in net and gave up two goals on 19 shots.
Martin Gerber made his second straight start for Ottawa and wasn't tested often as the Thrashers had only six shots in each of the first two periods. He was busier in the third period as the Thrashers had 13 shots and enjoyed nearly four full minutes of 5-on-3 power-play time.
The Senators were in control of the game entering the third period as they held a 5-2 lead and a 34-12 advantage in shots. The final shot total was 44-25 in their favour.
Kovalchuk pulled the Thrashers to within 5-3 on a shot from the point that was nearly behind Gerber before it left Kovalchuk's stick. The Thrashers were on a two-man advantage at the time.
The Senators opened a 2-0 lead on goals by Foligno and Kelly, and both goals were what can only be described as less than spectacular, but they got the sellout crowd of 20,082 into the game early.
Foligno opened the scoring at 2:30 of the first period when he lunged from behind the net into the crease to swipe in a loose puck in the crease. Chris Neil started the play by putting his own rebound off the post and then the back of Hedberg.
Eight minutes later Kelly was at the side of the night and he jammed a pass from Vermette behind Hedberg for a 2-0 lead.
"They come very good at you offensively and we had to be ready for them," Thrashers coach Don Waddell said. "When we gave up that early goal we became very fragile. We had opportunities to close the gap and at 5-3 we had the power play and we couldn't score so that was a killer for us."
The Thrashers quickly got that goal back as Kovalchuk beat Gerber with a shot just nine seconds after the Kelly goal.
Meszaros restored the Senators two goal lead with a power play goal four minutes later.
"The start was important for us. I think we took a little bit of their will away and they seemed like they were tired a little bit and we got on them," Spezza said.
"We let them in the game a little bit at the end but then we got that big goal from Heater and after that we just sailed in."
Corvo and Heatley gave the Senators a 5-1 lead by the 8:21 mark and sent Hedberg to the bench in favour of Lehtonen.
Perrin scored late in the period after taking a nice cross-ice feed from the newly acquired Mark Recchi and put a one-timer past Gerber.
Notes: The Senators have scored first in 20 of their 31 games and have an 18-1-1 record in those games...Spezza's first assist of the game was the 200th of his career. Spezza also leads the NHL this season with 30 assists...The Thrashers have allowed only two power-play goals in their past nine games.