Leafs keep Senators out of first with 3-1 win
Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 10:12 PM
Erin Nicks - NHL.com CorrespondentKANATA, Ont.
-- The Toronto Maple Leafs
made sure the Ottawa Senators
' stay atop the Northeast Division didn't last long.
The Senators moved into the top spot by beating Montreal on Friday, but the Maple Leafs ensured that they didn't stay there by beating Ottawa 3-1 at Scotiabank Place on Saturday night. Boston's 3-2 shootout victory against Philadelphia earlier in the day dropped the Senators one point behind the Bruins for the division lead, and the loss to Toronto kept Ottawa from regaining first place.
Boston, which hosts Toronto on Monday, has a one-point lead and two games in hand over Ottawa.
Toronto goaltender James Reimer
stopped 29 shots to improve to 5-1-1 lifetime against the Senators. He lost a chance for his third career shutout against the Senators when Colin Greening
scored with 1:09 left in regulation.
"I have no idea why (I have so much success) in this building," Reimer said. "I think we just get up for these games. The (Senators) are one of our biggest opponents and we love to play (well) against them, especially in this environment. Leafs Nation comes out for us in full force."
Despite the excitement of another Battle of Ontario matchup, and a capacity crowd of 20,500 including large numbers of fans decked out in Leafs' blue and white, the game started off slowly. Toronto's best chance in the scoreless first period came at 5:02, when a drop pass from Phil Kessel
landed on the stick of Clarke MacArthur
, who snapped a shot that sailed over the top of goaltender Ben Bishop
Ottawa nearly got on the board at 15:59, when Rob Klinkhammer
flew up the left wing and fired on Reimer, who made the stop but couldn't control the rebound, allowing Klinkhammer to scoop up his own rebound and nearly bury the puck behind Reimer's right skate.
Toronto grabbed the lead at 7:20 in the second period thanks to a lucky bounce. Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson
attempted to clear the puck from behind his own net, but his pass hit the back of Bishop's skate and bounced into the net. Tim Connolly
was given credit for the goal, his first in 11 games.
"It was just one of those unfortunate plays," Bishop said. "I stopped the puck and (Karlsson) was trying to make a play. It went off the back of my leg and I kind of carried it in. It was a weird thing."
The game took a physical turn midway through the second, as Nick Foligno
and Luke Schenn
battled along the right half-boards. As that scrap was taking place, Mikhail Grabovski
and Chris Neil
began to exchange punches, only to be separated by the linesmen. Both were given game misconducts for the secondary fight, and Grabovski was given an additional game misconduct for not having his jersey properly secured.
The Leafs made it 2-0 just 53 seconds into the third period during a 4-on-3 power play. Jake Gardiner
controlled the puck at the point and fed Kessel at the top of the circle. He skated into the slot and snapped a shot through a screen and past Bishop's stick for his 35th goal of the season.
Toronto added an insurance goal at 12:02 during a 5-on-3 power play with Daniel Alfredsson
and Kyle Turris
in the box. Kessel skated across the point and dished the puck to Dion Phaneuf
, who sent a rocket past Bishop's glove for his first goal in 12 games. Kessel has five goals and 11 points against the Senators.
Bishop stopped just 15 of 18 shots while losing in regulation for the first time in six starts since coming to Ottawa from St. Louis last month.
The Leafs and Senators split the six games in the Battle of Ontario this season, and all six took place after the Senators played the night before. Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said fatigue had to be a factor when playing against their provincial rivals.
"There has to be," he said. "You're playing three games in four nights; we play back-to-back and they don't … there's a fatigue factor there. We don't make the schedule – we have to play the games when they're scheduled. But we're not using the back-to-back as an excuse."
"We're at that point in the season where everyone is a little bit tired," Karlsson said. "We had a rough game last night (against Montreal) and we didn't really reach our top level today, either. It's something we're going to have to work on if we're going to continue."