Dany Heatley scores twice, adds assist as Senators beat up on Panthers 6-0

Heatley, who notched a hat trick in a win over Florida six days earlier, scored two more goals and assisted on another Thursday night as the surging Ottawa Senators routed the struggling Panthers 6-0 before a crowd of 17,814 at Scotiabank Place. After a slow start to the season, both Heatley, who has nine points on five goals and four assists in the last four games, and the Senators, having won six of their past seven contests, are heating up.

“This is what we knew we were capable of,” Heatley said. “We’re a good team, we skate well and we’re doing that. All we’re doing is playing well as a team, which we weren’t doing earlier on.”

Andrej Meszaros and Chris Kelly each had a goal and an assist. Mike Fisher, with a shorthanded goal, and Antoine Vermette also scored for Ottawa (13-12-1), which took advantage of an horrendous defensive outing by Florida.

“Embarrassing,” said Panthers captain Olli Jokinen after Florida was shutout for a franchise record third consecutive game. “We didn’t play like a team. We were running around; we were lucky it was only 6-0.”

The Senators chased Panthers starter Alex Auld from the net after the goaltender gave up five goals on 17 shots in little more than 26 minutes of work. It could have been a worse had Auld, who was replaced by Ed Belfour, not made several excellent saves.

Belfour blocked 10 of 11 shots the rest of the way and the Panthers (8-14-5) fell to their fifth straight loss and sixth in the past seven games.

“Two guys showed up and two guys played hard – that was our goalies,” Jokinen said.

At the other end, Ray Emery, getting the start at home ahead of the inconsistent Martin Gerber, was solid in stopping all 31 shots he faced to record his first shutout of the season and fourth of his career.

Despite the bigger workload, his night was relatively routine compared to what the Panthers’ goalies faced.

“Sometimes the stats are deceiving,” Emery said. “We were controlling the game and had the majority of chances.”

The only negative for Ottawa was the loss of defenceman Wade Redden, who’s been in and out of the lineup this season with groin problems. He left the game with an upper-body injury after taking a hit from Jay Bouwmeester late in the first period and didn’t return. His status was not immediately known.

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Panthers blue-liner Mike Van Ryn took a shot off his right leg while killing a penalty in the third period and left the game. His status was also not known.

The Senators climbed above the .500 mark for the first time since it was 5-4-0 on Oct. 26.

“Hopefully we don’t see the other side of .500 now for the rest of the year,” said Ottawa centre Jason Spezza, who was one of 13 Senators to register at least a point.

“We were coming at them in waves and that’s good to see when everybody gets on the scoreboard.”

The Panthers, meanwhile, haven’t been on the scoreboard in a while. They followed up their 6-4 loss to Ottawa last Friday with back-to-back 1-0 losses to Atlanta and Montreal, respectively, and have now gone 201 minutes 21 seconds without a goal.

They’re 2-8-4 on the road and have been outscored 48-22 in those games.

“We haven’t scored in three games, that’s when you’ve got to play good defensively and work hard. We were lucky it was only 6-0,” Jokinen repeated.

Heatley put the Senators in front less than three minutes into the contest – the 11th game in the past 13 in which Ottawa has recorded at least one power-play marker, making it 2-0 at 8:52.

The Panthers rarely tested Emery through the first 20 minutes and fell behind 3-0 when Fisher scored a late shorthanded goal.

The second period didn’t get any better for Florida and the score could have been worse without several excellent saves from Auld.

Kelly made it 4-0 at the 2:28 mark and Auld’s night came to an end when Meszaros scored on a redirection at 6:01.

Belfour entered the game to a chorus of boos from his days as the Senators rival with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vermette welcomed him by scoring on a rebound to make it 6-0.

The Panthers went 0-for-5 on the power play; the Senators were 1-for-4.

Notes: – The game was delayed for almost 10 minutes in the first period when Florida’s Stephen Weiss delivered a hard hit on Ottawa’s Chris Phillips, shattering a pane of glass in the Senators’ zone. … Ottawa defenceman Anton Volchenkov returned after sitting out the last two games with a lower-body injury. … Panthers centre Joe Nieuwendyk missed the game because of a sore back.