Fresh legs, special teams work well for Sens so far

Updated: April 22, 2006, 5:59 PM ET
Associated Press

OTTAWA -- It's just one game, but the Ottawa Senators seem to have two advantages over the Tampa Bay Lightning that might make their first-round NHL playoff series a short one.

The Senators use all four forward lines, keeping their legs fresh, while the Lightning essentially play only three lines and Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards seem to get even more ice time.

Ottawa also has excelled on special teams, using them to win Game One Friday night. The Lighting have been let down by both.

Things have to change for Tampa heading into Game 2 on Sunday.

Somehow, despite a power play that features Lecavalier, Richards, Martin St. Louis, Fredrik Modin and Dan Boyle, the Lightning were 23rd with the man advantage among 30 NHL teams this season and 1-for-9 in Game 1 _ their only goal in a 4-1 loss coming on a 5-on-3.

"It's been a mystery all year," Boyle said Saturday. "Really the five guys that are out there are the among the top guys in the league as far as skill. I really don't know why it's been this way.

"We just haven't put it together this year for whatever reason," added Boyle."And that was the turning point in the game last night."

Richards also can't figure it out.

"It's been one of those years," said Richards, who led his team with 91 points this season. "A lot of good teams this year that did well, their power plays are pretty steady. We, for some reason, go two or three weeks where we can do no wrong, and then we go a month or a month and a half where it's just a battle. We got to figure it out. We have the personnel. If I have the answer, I'd think we'd change things."

Ottawa's fourth-ranked power play scored the game-tying and game-winning goals Friday night and that was the difference.

Tampa spent most of Saturday's practice working on the power play, with one major change. Richards has played the point for most of the season but found himself under immense pressure by Ottawa's dangerous penalty killers, and was victimized when Mike Fisher scored a short-handed goal.

On Saturday, Richards was up front while the team used two defensemen.

Tampa Bay also had issues at even strength. As the game went on Friday the Senators looked stronger, and that's because all 12 forwards contribute, as opposed to essentially nine for Tampa.

Ottawa's fourth line of Chris Neil, Antoine Vermette and Vaclav Varada averaged more than twice the ice time of Tampa's fourth line of Evgeny Artyukhin, Martin Cibak and Chris Dingman.

"We feel good about our personnel here and a lot of guys can do different things," said Vermette, a 21-goal scorer this year. "That definitely spreads the work load a bit and that will be good down the road."

That depth can help later.

"We have four lines with at least a 20-goal scorer on it," Vermette said. "We certainly think that every line can score. Every time any line is out there, something can happen that's good. You want to see that as a team."

But as Richards pointed out, head coach John Tortorella has always shortened his bench and it seemed to work just fine in 2004 when the Lightning won the Cup.

"It's been the norm the last few years, he gives us a lot of opportunity and puts pressure on us, and we like that," said Richards, who played just under 25 minutes Friday. "We did that the year we won, too.

"We're not worried about what [the Senators] do, we've played teams that roll [four lines] and played teams that don't. It doesn't matter."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press