The Maple Leafs got a goal from Peter Holland in the shootout to defeat the Senators 3-2 at Air Canada Centre on Sunday.
The Senators (40-26-13) have 93 points, two fewer than the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings in the Atlantic Division standings. They are also two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for a wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Ottawa hosts Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The win for Toronto (30-43-7) was its third in a row at home and second against the Senators in the past five games; the Maple Leafs defeated Ottawa 3-2 in overtime March 28.
The Senators have three games remaining and were not pleased to have given up two valuable points to a non-playoff team.
"You can't leave points on the board at this time of year," said Ottawa forward Mark Stone. "We weren't good in the first period; that's all there is to it. We were able to find ways to come back all night, but at the end of the day we had chances to win and just weren't able to capitalize. At the end of the days these guys are much further down the standings than us and we need those points more than they do. For us to lose that one is a costly lost point."
Although the Senators were defeated, goaltender Andrew Hammond has lost once in regulation. He is 17-1-2.
Hammond said he didn't think the Senators were ready for the Maple Leafs. Each team played on Saturday, but Toronto appeared to have more jump out of the gate.
"I don't think we had our legs in the first period and it showed on the shot clock," said Hammond, referring to the fact the Maple Leafs out-shot the Senators 21-12 in the opening 20 minutes. "By the time we got our legs under us, it was a 40-minute game and we weren't able to win in regulation. I don't think we were all that sharp. It looked like we were a little tired."
Joffrey Lupul gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 3:10 of the first period when he scored his 10th goal of the season. The veteran right wing took a pass in front of the net and escaped the loose coverage of Erik Condra before stuffing a shot past Hammond. It was Lupul's first goal since Dec. 31, a span of 28 games.
The Senators tied it at 7:15 of the second period on a power play when defenseman Erik Karlsson hopped on a rebound and scored his 21st goal of the season. It came nine seconds after Toronto defenseman Andrew MacWilliam was sent off for tripping.
The Maple Leafs restored their lead at 12:42 when James van Riemsdyk scored his 27th goal of the season and his third in as many games. Holland was driving hard to the net and suddenly jammed on the breaks. He spotted van Riemsdyk in front and made a pinpoint pass that led to the goal.
Stone tied the score 2-2 at 1:09 of the third period with a power-play goal. With Toronto's Richard Panik off for holding, Stone took a pass from Kyle Turris in the high slot and one-timed a shot past Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier for his 22nd goal of the season.
Holland, playing his first game since March 13 becausef of a lower-body injury, was Toronto's seventh shooter in the shootout and sent a shot high past Hammond.
Toronto coach Peter Horachek suggested he might monitor Holland's ice time, especially early in the game, but he said afterward he was impressed with the center's effort.
"I thought he was pretty good," Horachek said. "Early in the game, his line with Joffrey Lupul and Leo Komarov were one of our best lines. I figured I'd let him go until I think that he's falling off. He stepped in and played a pretty good game right off the bat."
Horachek had no explanation for the Maple Leafs' recent success against Ottawa, other than his players are buying into his system.
"It all goes back to the motivation and wanting to play the game the right way," Horachek said. "We're putting a lot of pressure internally on the players to play that way. We wanted to keep pushing and doing the right things and playing that way. We didn't always play the right way during the game, but when you win everything seems a little better than it is when you lose the game."
As for the Senators, it is crunch time and Hammond said they have nobody to lean on except themselves.
"We have three games left and if we aren't willing to go all out and use all our energy now we're going to have a lot of regret this summer," Hammond said. "They are all must-win games now."