for this game

Big first period helps Senators topple Lightning

Dec 3, 2006 - 2:53 AM OTTAWA (Ticker) -- Patrick Eaves, Antoine Vermette and the Ottawa Senators continue to regain the fire that put the club atop the Eastern Conference last season.

Eaves scored the first of four first-period goals and Vermette tallied twice as the Senators posted a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Defenseman Joe Corvo scored a power-play goal just under seven minutes into the game and Vermette tallied 77 seconds later to give the Senators a 3-0 bulge.

"We're showing better play and we're coming together as a group," Vermette said. "We're feeling positive of our direction and we're following the program. We still have to stay on top of our game and not sit back at any time."

Vermette's second goal came on a breakaway with 6:41 remaining in the third period for Ottawa, which has won three straight games.

"(Peter) Schaefer made a great pass to me in the middle," Vermette said. "I was able to get good control of the puck. The defense was playing pretty low, so I got a breakaway and I was able to put it in the five-hole."

However it was the 22-year-old Eaves who initiated Ottawa's flurry with an opportunistic play.

With the Lightning on the power play, the 6-0, 185-pound right wing stole the puck near Tampa Bay's blue line after it glanced off the skate of a member of the Lightning. Eaves skated in and faked to his right before firing the puck between the pads of goaltender Johan Holmqvist for his second career shorthanded tally just 2:47 into the contest.

It was the seventh win in the last eight games for Ottawa, which started the season 7-11-1. The Senators, who led the East with 113 points last season, have won four straight at home.

"We wanted to get a good jump and be on them early," Senators left wing Dany Heatley said. "Even though we're above .500 (14-12-1), we want to get on a roll and be more than that."

Jason Spezza tallied with 3:39 left in the first session and added an assist and netminder Ray Emery stopped 34 shots for his 10th victory of the season.

Holmqvist allowed three goals on just seven shots before being pulled at 8:06 of the first period. Rookie Karri Ramo came on to make his NHL debut and turned aside 16 shots.

"It was very exciting at the time," Ramo said. "It was only the second NHL game I've ever seen. Before the pregame skate, the coach told me to be ready in case anything happens and they need me. I felt I did good, but the two goals I let in weren't unstoppable."

Eric Perrin and Vincent Lecavalier scored less than two minutes apart in the second period for Tampa Bay, which has lost three straight and fell to 1-5-2 against Northeast Division opponents.

"It's hard to come back after going down four goals in the first period," Lecavalier said. "We played better after that. We couldn't bury that third one, which would have given us a chance."

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