Senators 5, Maple Leafs 1
The Canadian Press
(Ottawa) - There's clearly no Stanley Cup hangover in the nation's capital.
The Ottawa Senators are off to the most explosive start to a season in NHL history after Tuesday night's 5-1 win over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ottawa improved to an impressive 13-1-0, making the 2007-08 Senators the fastest NHL team to reach the 13-win mark.
``I mean, 13-1, you hear that and you say `wow,''' said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. ``We're playing well. But the challenge is to keep going. I'm not worried about streaks or records. I want to keep giving ourselves a chance to win.''
Each Senators player got a phone call from coach John Paddock last summer warning against a letdown following a trip to the Stanley Cup final last season. He warned against the type of meltdown that happened to 2006 Cup finalists Edmonton and Carolina, both of which missed the playoffs last season.
``We were challenged, the talk of a Stanley Cup hangover really pushed us even more,'' Alfredsson said.
Elsewhere in the NHL it was Atlanta 2 Washington 1 and New York Islanders 3 New York Rangers 2.
At Ottawa, even a bolstered Maple Leafs lineup was no match for the high-flying Senators. Andrej Meszaros, Chris Kelly and Patrick Eaves each had a goal and an assist and Martin Gerber collected his NHL-best 10th win of the season as Ottawa cruised past Toronto.
``You look around the room, everyone is enjoying it,'' said Gerber. ``But it doesn't come easy. It takes a lot of work.''
Alfredsson and Chris Phillips also scored for the NHL-leading Senators, who set a franchise record with their eighth consecutive victory.
``Guys are working really hard,'' said veteran Ottawa blue-liner Wade Redden. ``No one is getting lazy here.''
Nik Antropov potted his ninth goal of the season for Toronto (6-7-3), which dressed forwards Kyle Wellwood (sports hernia) and Mark Bell (NHL suspension) for the first time this season. It didn't matter.
Antoine Vermette had two assists as the Sens continued their domination of the Leafs, improving to 15-2-2 in the regular season since the lockout ended _ including 3-0-0 this season.
The Leafs were buoyed by their recent play on the road, winning three of their last four away from home with solid defensive play. But on this night they had trouble handling Ottawa's speed early on, turning the puck over and giving up odd-man breaks.
``You don't want to give up five odd-man breaks a game _ we gave up five in the first four to five minutes,'' said a clearly disappointed Paul Maurice, Toronto's head coach.
A lively crowd of 19,613 featured a healthy dose of Leaf jerseys, but they were quieted in a hurry.
``We got off to a good start and our fans took over,'' said Alfredsson.
Phillips opened the scoring 2:59 into the first period, pinching in from the point and beating Vesa Toskala top corner on the stick side after a nifty cross-ice feed from Dany Heatley.
It was 2-0 just 47 seconds later when Eaves finished off a 2-on-1 break by patiently waiting out Toskala before flipping the puck over him.
Alfredsson collected his 10th goal of the season 1:21 into the second period after finding the open side on another 2-on-1 _ this time short-handed. Meszaros made it 4-0 on a Sens power play with a screened shot that beat Toskala, chasing the Finnish goalie from the net.
The goalie change seemed to spark the Leafs, who carried the play for the rest of the middle period and finally got a goal when Antropov rifled a wrist shot in the top corner over Gerber's stick side on a Toronto power play at 14:23.
But there would be no comeback on this night. The Senators re-asserted themselves in the third period, Kelly finishing off yet another 2-on-1 break after a pass from Eaves to make it 5-1 at 6:25.
Toronto had plenty of chances to make this a game, getting nine power-play chances on the night but scoring only once. Ottawa got three man advantages and scored once.
Wellwood and Bell started the game together on a line with John Pohl but later found themselves with Jason Blake as head coach Paul Maurice shuffled the deck. Wellwood also saw time on the first power-play unit.
Toronto actually outshot Ottawa 31-21 _ a prime example of how the shot clock can be misleading.
Thrashers 2 Capitals 1
At Atlanta, Todd White scored the 100th goal of his career with at 1:34 of overtime to give the Thrashers a victory over slumping Washington.
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