Post-game report: Ottawa 3 Tampa Bay 2
OTTAWA (CP) - The new NHL will have a new Stanley Cup champion.
Martin Havlat's second-period tally stood as the winner Saturday night and the top-seeded Ottawa Senators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2, making swift work of the defending Cup champs with a five-game series victory. Ottawa outscored Tampa 23-14 in the best-of-seven set.
A thunderous crowd of 20,004 at Scotiabank Place was on its feet as the final seconds ticked away, its team avoiding the first-round failures that had sometimes plagued the Sens in playoffs past.
Andrej Meszaros and Peter Schaefer also scored for the Senators, who joined the New Jersey Devils into the second round of the playoffs although the two contenders can't meet until the Eastern conference final.
Ray Emery made 26 saves and is believed to be the first rookie goalie since Brian Boucher with Philadelphia in 2000 to win a playoff series.
Brad Richards and Evgeny Artyukhin scored for the Lightning, who can blame horrible special teams for a quick first-round exit. Tampa went 4-for-31 with the man advantage in this series, including 0-for-4 on Saturday. The Lightning had two chances on the power play in the third period but couldn't deliver the tying goal.
Tampa veteran Sean Burke, in his first start of the series, stopped 35 shots and was solid as he replaced the struggling John Grahame in goal, but couldn't muster up the miracle performance head coach John Tortorella had hoped for.
The Scotiabank Place was absolutely rocking as the puck dropped to start Game 5, a sea of red Senators jerseys in the crowd sensing the franchise's first series victory since 2003.
Schaefer opened the scoring at 12:53, freeing himself up from Tampa defenceman Pavel Kubina and re-directing a perfect, cross-ice pass from Martin Havlat.
Schaefer thought he had another one with 4:39 left in the opening period but his apparent goal with Ottawa on the power play was disallowed after a review because he kicked in the puck with his right skate.
Meszaros quickly turned those boos into cheers when he blasted a point shot past Burke seconds after the nullified goal to give the Sens the 2-0 lead.
Artyukhin gave Tampa hope just 1:37 into the second period, banging home a rebound in front of Emery to make it 2-1.
A rather boring second period finally livened up when Havlat scored on the power play with 4:58 to go, taking a perfect centring pass from Dany Heatley and roofing a shot over Burke to give Ottawa the all-important 3-1 lead. It was Havlat's team-leading sixth playoff goal.
Havlat missed a glorious chance to put the game away with 2:40 left, skating in alone on a clear breakaway but Burke slammed the door with a pad save.
Richards, Tampa's best player in the series, brought it back to a one-goal deficit when his quick release from the slot beat Emery inside the post at 18:15 of the second period.
Sens fourth-line winger Vaclav Varada left the game early in the second period with an upper body injury after being hammered with a thunderous check by Artyukhin.
Notes: Defenceman Chris Phillips (lower body) was scratched for Ottawa. Christoph Schubert took his spot in the lineup ... Spezza's one assist Saturday gave him 10 points for the series, a franchise record for a playoff series, surpassing Marian Hossa's eight points against Philadelphia in 2003 ... Ottawa will not be able to open its second-round series next Saturday or Sunday because Dora the Explorer, a children's show, is booked for both days at Scotiabank Place.