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GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (43-33-6) at Ottawa Senators (52-21-9).
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Senators lead 1-0.
TIME: Sunday, 6 p.m. EDT.
In a span of 67 seconds, Martin Havlat and Jason Spezza helped the Ottawa Senators go from a team playing against its past playoff failures to one that took its first step to advance out of the first round.
The duo look to help the Senators protect their home ice again as their series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning continues at Scotiabank Place.
The Senators appeared to be the same underachieving team that made first-round playoff exits from 1999-2001 and 2004 with passive and sloppy play. Ottawa's high-powered offense failed to generate many scoring chances as it trailed 1-0 heading into the third period of Friday's series opener.
Havlat and Spezza, though, changed that. Spezza fed Havlat with a cross-ice pass on a third-period power play, and Havlat deked Lightning goaltender John Grahame to the ice before scoring the game-tying goal with 14:54 to play.
First-year Senators coach Bryan Murray sensed his team finally relaxed after Havlat's goal.
"No question, on the bench at that point, it was like the fans - a sigh of relief," Murray admitted. "And we started to play much better after that."
The 22-year-old Spezza, given offensive freedom by Murray that previous coach Jacques Martin denied him as a rookie in 2004, provided Ottawa a 2-1 lead with 13:47 left on a sharp-angled wrist shot.
"There's no question we were nervous at the beginning of the game, there's obviously pressure," Murray said. "Lots has been said about this hockey team. But the third period, the way we played, going into the room (after the game) they felt pretty good about themselves. And I think we'll just be better from here on in."
Senators rookie goaltender Ray Emery was stellar in his debut, turning aside 36 shots. Grahame also played well in defeat, making 34 saves, but realizes he must play better for the Lightning to win.
"They kept coming and coming and we weren't able to kill off those couple of power plays (early in the third period)," said Grahame. "It's a 60-minute game, not a 40-minute game."
The Lightning hurt themselves with poor play on special teams and missed opportunities. Tampa, which was 1-for-9 on the power play in addition to giving up two man-advantage goals and a short-handed tally, had second-period shots by Vincent Lecavalier and Ruslan Fedotenko ring off the crossbar in the second period while trying to add to its 1-0 lead.
"We need to capitalize on our own power plays," said Tampa coach John Tortorella. "That's what changed this game - special teams."
The series will move to Tampa, Fla. for Game 3 on Tuesday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lightning - 92 points; 8th seed. Senators - 113 points; 1st seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Lecavalier, 1 goal; Dan Boyle and Brad Richards, 1 assist; Lecavalier, Boyle and Richards, 1 point; six players tied with 2 PIM. Senators - Four players tied with 1 goal; Dany Heatley and Peter Schaefer, 2 assists; Heatley, Schaefer and Spezza, 2 points; Heatley, 4 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 11.1 percent (1 for 9). Penalty killing: 66.7 percent (4 for 6). Senators - Power play: 33.3 percent (2 for 6). Penalty killing: 88.9 percent (8 for 9).
GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Grahame (0-1, 0 SO, 3.05 GAA); Sean Burke (no record). Senators - Emery (1-0, 0, 1.00); Mike Morrison (no record).
LAST MEETING: Friday, Senators 4-1. At Ottawa, the Lightning had a playoff franchise-record 16 shots on goal in the first period, but wound up being outshot 38-36.
|Apr 29 '06||TBL 2 at OTT 3||M. Havlat|
|Apr 27 '06||OTT 5 at TBL 2||D. Heatley|
|Apr 25 '06||OTT 8 at TBL 4||A. Vermette|
|Apr 23 '06||TBL 4 at OTT 3||M. St. Louis|
|Apr 21 '06||TBL 1 at OTT 4||J. Spezza|