TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The Ottawa Senators are determined to shake their reputation as playoff failures.
Two nights after a third-period collapse at home revived talk about past postseason disappointment, the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference regained control of its first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning with an impressive 8-4 victory on Tuesday night.
Ottawa leads 2-1 in the best-of-seven matchup. Game 4 is Thursday night in Tampa.
Martin Havlat scored his third and fourth goals of the playoffs, and defenseman Wade Redden had a goal and two assists after missing Game 2 to fly to Saskatchewan to be with family following the death of his mother.
Antoine Vermette also scored twice for the Senators, who got another solid performance from goaltender Ray Emery. The rookie stopped 35 shots and again showed why Ottawa is confident it can go deep into the playoffs, even without injured goalie Dominik Hasek.
The Senators have been one of the top two seeds in the East four times since 1999, but have yet to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. They entered this series as heavy favorites after sweeping four regular-season meetings and taking 17 of 20 games from the Lightning over the past five years.
Paul Ranger scored twice and Martin St. Louis once for the Lightning, who trimmed a four-goal deficit to 5-2 on Ranger's unassisted goal just 20 seconds into third period. But any realistic chance to make it interesting faded when Tampa Bay's Chris Dingman gave the Senators a 7-minute power play by drawing penalties for instigating and fighting.
Dany Heatley and Zdeno Chara scored during the stretch for Ottawa to make it 7-2. Tampa Bay came back with power-play goals by Ranger and Pavel Kubina, but by that time the game was well out of reach.
Heatley and Chara didn't make it to the end as they were part of a brawl with 2:17 left.
Heatley squared off in a fight with Nolan Pratt, and Chara locked up with Vincent Lecavalier. Ottawa's 6-foot-9 defenseman cocked his right arm and held it menacingly over Lecavalier, who was down on the ice, but restrained from throwing the big punch.
The melee, sparked by Vaclav Varada's boarding penalty against Tampa Bay's Ruslan Fedotenko, capped a physical game that featured 139 penalty minutes - 79 for Tampa Bay - five fighting majors, and seven misconducts.
Despite winning Game 2 to even the series and end a nine-game losing streak against the Senators, Lightning coach John Tortorella insisted earlier Tuesday that the pressure to win the series remains on Ottawa because of expectations created by a stellar regular season.
The Senators answered questions about how they would respond by scoring three times in their first 11 shots, with Havlat finding the net for the third straight game and Redden and Patrick Eaves adding their first goals of the playoffs.
The Lightning were fortunate to only trail 3-1 after one period.
Tampa Bay has been putrid on the power play in the first three games of the series, going 4-for-23 with two of the goals coming in 5-on-3 situations, including St. Louis' shot that got through Emery late in the first period.
The Lightning yanked goalie John Grahame after Havlat's second goal made it 5-1 midway through the second period. Backup Sean Burke yielded goals to Heatley, Chara and Vermette in the third.
Notes: The Lightning were 3-for-11 on the power-play. Ottawa was 3-for-4. ... Redden's three points were a playoff career high. ... Tampa Bay LW Vinny Prospal, slowed by an upper body injury, was in the lineup. ... Ottawa C Chris Kelly, who left during the third period of Game 2 with an upper body injury, was injured again Tuesday. He left with a lower body injury in the second period and didn't return