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Senators ride big first period to 5-1 victory over Thrashers

The Canadian Press
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Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31) of the Czeck Republic looks on as Ottawa Senator Jason Spezza (19) celebrates his goal during first period NHL hockey between the Ottawa Senators and the Atlanta in Ottawa, Wednesday December 3, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand Author: The Hockey News

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Senators ride big first period to 5-1 victory over Thrashers

The Canadian Press
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OTTAWA - Dany Heatley and the Ottawa Senators got off to a quick start and made sure the Atlanta Thrashers didn't have a chance at another electric comeback.

Heatley had a goal and two assists - all in the first period - as the Senators defeated the Thrashers 5-1 Wednesday night.

Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Brendan Bell and Shean Donovan also had goals for the Senators (9-10-4), who have won three of their past four games since ending a six-game losing streak. Alex Auld made 22 saves in his ninth straight start in front of an announced crowd of 17,215 at Scotiabank Place.

"We haven't started poorly in the last three or four games so we wanted to just keep doing the same things," Heatley explained. "Tonight the puck went in for us. We got the huge start but that's a team that you can never count out. They've got so much fire power they can come back at any time."

The was evident Tuesday night in Montreal when the Thrashers scored three times in 59 seconds to tie the game 3-3 before ultimately losing 5-4.

They didn't have the same jump in the third period against the Senators, who slowed the pace in the third period and held the Thrashers to just five shots over the final 20 minutes while registering only seven themselves. They were content to just sit back and push the puck into the neutral zone until an opening became available.

Donovan found one of those openings and turned it into the game's final goal as he stepped around defenceman Garnet Exelby and put a shot past Andrej Pavelec at 16:29.

"We kept going to the end and even at 4-1 we pressured and I don't think we quit. Maybe there was a bit of fatigue," said Thrashers coach John Anderson.

"That loss (in Montreal) hurt more in the heart than it did the legs. It was hard to come back (from 3-0) and do that and then we're faced with that again here, so it was a little tough to get going."

Eric Boulton had the only goal for the Thrashers (8-14-3). Pavelec stopped 29 shots in the loss.

Bell's first as an Ottawa Senator was the only scoring of the second period. The Ottawa native, who spent four seasons playing junior with the Ottawa 67's, received a loud ovation when the goal announcement was made.

"The boys were giving to me a little bit saying there must have been a lot of family in the building for an ovation that loud," Bell said.

Bell also assisted on Heatley's goal at 1:18 of the first period. Bell delivered a perfect pass from across the ice to the side of the Thrashers goal, where Heatley completed the scoring play with a one-timer over top of Pavelec.

"I'm not a guy that puts too much emphasis on stats, but it's nice when you're expected to put up some offence and you can contribute a couple of points, " Bell said. "I'll take them any time. That first pass to Heater is more my style of game but any time I can put them in the back of the net it's an even better feeling."

The Thrashers tied the game at 2:53 when Boulton collected his first goal of the season on a shot from the boards that eluded Auld.

Spezza gave the Senators the lead back with a power-play goal at 6:12, and Alfredsson put the home team up by a pair with a breakaway goal at 15:31. Heatley assisted on those two goals, as did Filip Kuba.

Notes: The last time Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley all scored in the same period was Oct. 10, 2005. ... The Senators are 3-0-0 this season when wearing their new third jersey.

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Senators ride big first period to 5-1 victory over Thrashers