With Spezza, Heatley’s usual centre and chief set-up man, sidelined Sunday for the eighth straight game because of a knee injury, Heatley didn’t miss a beat against the Philadelphia Flyers.
He scored two goals – his 24 and 25 on the season – and added an assist to lead the Senators to a 6-1 romp over the Flyers. Linemates Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Kelly, who’s Spezza’s replacement at centre, also had a productive afternoon. Alfredsson had a goal and two assists, while Kelly had one of each.
“You kind of just go with what your line is made up of,” said Heatley, who now has five goals in the past three games. “With Kells and Alfie, it’s more give-and-go, chip it in and move the puck a little bit more.
“And with Spezz, for me, it’s just kind of get open and shoot the puck. It changes a little bit. But I think the biggest reason (for Heatley’s hot streak) is everyone’s playing better and skating better. It makes the game easier.”
Among the crowd of 18,509 at Scotiabank Place was Graham and Lu-Ann Snyder – the parents of former NHLer Dan Snyder. Dan Snyder was Heatley’s friend and teammate with the Atlanta Thrashers, who was killed in September 2003 after Heatley’s car, which he was a passenger in, overturned in an Atlanta suburb.
Heatley was to meet with the Snyders, who are on a tour of NHL cities to raise money for the Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation, following the game.
“It was good (to have them in attendance),” Heatley said. “They’ve been on the tour logging the miles, so it will be good to see them after.”
The Senators (23-19-2) also received goals from Joe Corvo and rookie Josh Hennessy, who recorded his first NHL marker as they jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead and went up 4-1 after two periods to provide plenty of offensive support for goaltender Martin Gerber, who was making a rare home start for the Senators in place of Ray Emery.
The last time Gerber started at home for the Sens was Nov. 13, when he was between the pipes for a 6-3 loss to Montreal. Since then, he’s had to settle for road work and one relief appearance in the building. He didn’t appear in any game in the Senators’ past seven outings since beating the Flyers 6-3 on Dec. 23 at Philadelphia. He stopped 20 shots to earn the victory Sunday.
“That’s got to make him feel good, not having played at home in a long time,” Senators coach Bryan Murray said.
Wade Redden and Anton Volchenkov chipped in with a pair of assists apiece as the Senators, in the midst of a five-game homestand, won for the sixth time in eight games and now have at least a point in seven of those eight contests.
While Gerber may have been feeling better about himself, Philadelphia was feeling worse as it continued to unravel during its eight-game road trip. Sunday’s loss was its third straight, including a 4-3 defeat at Boston on Saturday afternoon, after winning three in a row.
“Terrible,” was how Flyers coach John Stevens described the outing, where R.J. Umberger scored the lone goal for the lowly Flyers (11-27-4).
“We put up a fight for 10 minutes, then there was no fight after that,” Stevens said. Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki hasn’t seen much action lately either, and was playing for the first time since Dec. 27 after missing three games because of a hip problem before backing up Robert Esche for two more contests.
He was largely left to fend for himself and finished with 37 saves in losing his 11th consecutive decision.
“I don’t feel sorry for (Niittymaki). We have to look in the mirror and decide where we want to go from here,” said Stevens.
The Flyers fell to 0-12-3 without the services of injured captain Peter Forsberg, who continues to be sidelined by injury problems and missed his third straight game with a groin strain.
Ottawa went up 2-0 after one period on goals by Alfredsson and Corvo.
Gerber didn’t look sharp in allowing the Flyers to cut the lead to a goal early in the second when his failed poke check in a race to a loose puck gave Umberger an empty net to shoot into, but Heatley restored the two-goal cushion on a breakaway midway through the period and the rout was on.
Hennessy, who was appearing in his eighth career contest after being recalled from AHL Binghamton on Saturday, pounced on a rebound to record his first goal later in the second.
“If it’s not the best feeling in my life, it’s right up there,” Hennessy said. “It’s more reassurance that you can play at this level. The guys were pretty excited for me.”
Notes: – The Senators are 17-8-7-0 against the Flyers since the 1998-99 season. … Mike Fisher (knee), Spezza (knee) and Antoine Vermette (hip) all sat out for Ottawa. … Right-winger Stefan Ruzicka was scratched from Philadelphia’s lineup. … The Flyers conclude their road trip Tuesday night at Washington. … The Senators are at home to Boston that same night.