for this game

Senators record season-opening win behind Eaves, Gerber

Oct 5, 2006 - 2:37 AM TORONTO (Ticker) -- Patrick Eaves proved coach Bryan Murray made the right decision.

Elevated to the top line, Eaves scored one goal and set up another as the Ottawa Senators skated to a 4-1 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season opener for both teams.

A first-round pick in 2003, Eaves made his NHL debut last season and netted 20 goals in 58 games. The performance earned him a promotion to Ottawa's first line alongside Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, and the 22-year-old did not disappoint on Opening Night.

In the final minute of the first period, Eaves tallied on the power play to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead. Just 76 seconds after tough guy Chris Neil doubled the advantage, Eaves helped set up defenseman Christoph Schubert's goal for a 3-0 bulge.

"It gives me a lot of confidence," Eaves said. "I just have to play hard every night and contribute to the line. ... On my assist, you've just got to give it to the right people, I guess."

Captain Daniel Alfredsson added an empty-netter and newcomer Martin Gerber made 33 saves for the Senators, who improved to 5-0-4 when beginning the season on the road.

"The more pucks you get at the beginning, the easier it goes," said Gerber, who was a member of Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes last season. "The first game of the season, you want to do good and you don't want to push too hard. You just want to go out there and try to enjoy the game."

"He kept us in the game, especially in the first (period)," Alfredsson said. "He kept us in there and allowed us to get the lead."

Mats Sundin scored on a penalty shot for Toronto, which also lost its season opener to Ottawa in 2005-06 in a shootout.

"I thought we kept up with Ottawa," Sundin said. "We traded chances, (but) we had a couple breakdowns. Overall, we didn't play that bad of a game."

The Senators, who raised their all-time record against the Maple Leafs to 24-8-2-1, opened the scoring with 31 seconds remaining in the first period. Goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who was acquired from Boston over the summer, stopped defenseman Tom Preissing's initial shot, but Eaves buried the rebound from the bottom of the left faceoff circle.

"It was good to get off on the right foot there and get that goal right away," Eaves said.

Neil showed his offensive talent midway through the second, taking a pass above the right circle and driving to the net before sliding a backhander past Raycroft at 10:13.

Skating behind Toronto's net, Schubert found a loose puck at the right side and fired a shot that made its way between Raycroft's pads and trickled in with 8:31 left in the middle session, giving Ottawa a three-goal bulge.

"It was one of those ones that you don't want to happen, but it was unavoidable," Raycroft said.

Attempting to get his team on the board, Sundin shot wide on a breakaway with eight minutes to go in the period. But the Maple Leafs captain was tripped from behind by defenseman Anton Volchenkov at the last second, drawing the season's first penalty shot.

Sundin skated in and fired the puck between the pads of Gerber, who thought he had control. But it slowly dribbled toward the goal line and across for Sundin's 497th career tally.

The play originally was not ruled a goal, even though Sundin pumped his arms in the air. But after video review, Toronto was awarded the tally.

"Our captain is quite a bit more emotional than people give him credit for, in a positive way," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "I thought he had a (heck) of a game."

Heatley collected two assists for the Senators, who have won all three of their season-opening meetings with the Maple Leafs. The teams face off again Thursday in Ottawa.

"Hopefully we play a little better tomorrow night, find a way to get some more traffic and get the two points," Raycroft said.

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