OTTAWA – Ottawa fans at Scotiabank Place held up disparaging signs, voiced their disapproval with a chorus of boos all night and made their displeasure apparent with several unflattering chants directed at former Senators forward Dany Heatley.
All the attention didn’t seem to bother him or his current teammates one bit.
Logan Couture scored twice and Antti Niemi made 28 saves Thursday as the San Jose Sharks blanked the Senators 4-0 in Heatley’s first game at Scotiabank Place since requesting a trade in the summer of 2009.
Heatley had one assist before a vocal crowd of 18,017, surprisingly less than a sellout given the hype surrounding his return.
While he didn’t seem rattled by the attention during the game, Heatley bolted for the locker-room as soon as the final whistle sounded while his teammates celebrated their victory on the ice.
“They’re passionate fans and they love their team,” Heatley said.
“Once it starts you tend to tune it out. I got a pretty good taste of (the booing) in the warm-up and I figured that’s what it would be like the entire game.”
The Sharks (12-8-4) had 33 shots on Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who once again failed to get offensive support.
“We have to give them credit because they’re a good team, but we’re going through a stretch where we’re having trouble scoring goals,” Leclaire said.
“It’s a team game though and you win and lose as a team. Our confidence is OK and we just have to make sure we put ourselves in good situations and start winning some games, especially at home.”
Heatley took a penalty in the second period for a high stick that clipped former linemate Jason Spezza and knocked him to the ice. That was the extent of the bad blood between Heatley and his former team.
“He was upset about the high stick, but obviously I didn’t mean to do that,” Heatley said. “I got a chance during a couple of the timeouts to talk to a few of the guys. The were teammates of mine and we went through a lot together.”
Ottawa (11-14-1) has lost seven of its last nine games.
Heatley played four seasons with the Senators from 2005 to 2009, scoring 180 goals and adding 182 assists.
His 72 points in his final year with the club were his lowest total since his rookie season with the Atlanta Thrashers, excluding the 2003-04 season when injuries limited him to just 31 games.
His trade request just one year into a six-year contract extension became public and left Senators fans feeling snubbed. Heatley was finally traded on the opening day of training camp in 2009.
The Sharks didn’t play in Ottawa last season, though Heatley did face his old team in a 5-2 win in San Jose on Dec. 1, 2009.
Senators fans had a long time to stew before letting their emotions out Thursday night, so it was no surprise that Heatley wasn’t well received.
Heatley was booed the moment he stepped on the ice for the warm-up, during which time there was a constant chant of “Heatley sucks,” albeit by a small crowd.
When more seats were occupied for the start of the game, those chants continued into the first period along with a chorus of boos every time No. 15 touched the puck.
When Jason Spezza knocked Heatley to the ice early on it drew a loud cheer from the crowd, just as a save by Senators netminder off Heatley did moments later.
There was some variation to the crowd’s displeasure as chants of “Traitor!” were thrown into the mix. They also started to boo whenever Heatley came near the puck.
Their were several signs in the building, but one of the most clever was “Even Yashin thinks you’re a jerk,” referring to former Senators captain Alexei Yashin who sat out a year in a contract dispute with the club before returning to play the 2000-01 season. He was traded to the New York Islanders for the following season.
Patrick Marleau scored on a power play in the first period to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead and in the second period Heatley got the only assist on Justin Braun’s first career NHL goal on another power play.
Couture gave the Sharks a 3-0 lead early in the third period, receiving a small ovation whenthe goal was announced. He then scored on a breakaway to erase any doubt as to the outcome.
“Maybe another goal at the end would have been nice, but I’m happy to score a couple of goals. It was pretty cool and there were a couple of claps. When I went out for the first star people stuck around and gave me some applause which was pretty cool,” Couture said.
Couture, Jamie McGinn and Derek Joslin, all former captains of the Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League, were playing their first NHL games in Ottawa.
“It’s something very special for us three to get a chance to play on the same NHL team and then come back to the junior city where we all spent four years is something special and we’re all thankful for it.”
A few plastic water bottles were thrown toward the Sharks players after the final whistle.
Notes:The Senators played their 10th consecutive game injury Thursday night. The last time they had an injured played was Nov. 11 when defenceman Filip Kuba missed his 16th game after suffering a broken leg in training camp…The Senators are 7-6-0 at home this year…Sharks winger Devin Setoguchi and defenceman Jason Demers missed their third and fifth games respectively Thursday with upper-body injuries…Amongst players that started the season 31-years-old or younger, Sharks’Captain Joe Thornton has the most career points with 954.