OTTAWA -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are heading to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Maple Leafs earned their first postseason berth in eight seasons Saturday, defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in front of 20,500 raucous fans at Scotiabank Place.
"We refer back to respect," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We're trying to earn respect for our group. That, to me, is the most important thing. For us to qualify [for the playoffs], that's a feather in all the players' caps."
Toronto, which got 49 saves from James Reimer, was helped by the New York Islanders' shootout victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon, allowing the Maple Leafs to achieve 25 regulation and overtime wins and holding the Jets to 21.
The Jets can tie the Maple Leafs in points, but with three games remaining can have no more than 24 regulation and overtime wins, giving Toronto the advantage should it come to a tiebreaker.
The Maple Leafs (25-15-3) are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference; the Senators fell to seventh (23-15-6) behind the Islanders with four games to go.
Toronto's Nazem Kadri beat Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson five-hole at 14:10 of the third, making it 3-1, and Joffrey Lupul put the game away for the Maple Leafs with less than two minutes remaining.
Jakob Silfverberg had the goal for the Senators. Anderson turned away 18 of 22 shots, and his three-game winning streak ended.
Reimer continues to have the Senators' number; he's 8-1-1 lifetime against the divisional rival.
"This is unbelievable," Reimer said. "This is the hockey you always want to play and dream of when you're growing up. And especially for our city, I know they're anxious for it. It's great to finally clinch. Our team plays great here, and that just trickles down to your goaltender. I don't know why we're getting good results [playing in Ottawa] but it's fun and a great atmosphere."
Ottawa coach Paul MacLean offered praise for Reimer, admitting his team cannot seem to solve the netminder.
"Reimer must be [this year's] Vezina Trophy winner, the Hart Trophy winner … he gets our vote," MacLean said. "Every time we play him, he stops every puck we hit him with."
Toronto nearly took its first lead when defenseman Dion Phaneuf shot from down low on Anderson and the goaltender swatted the puck into the air. Phaneuf recovered it and skated out to the half boards, where he sent another wrist shot toward Anderson that appeared to have the netminder beat. However, the referees ruled Leo Komarov interfered with Anderson and the goal was disallowed, leaving the game scoreless at 6:27.
"The referees conferred as a group and decided that Komarov had interfered with Anderson," Carlyle said. "From my view, clearly he did bump [Anderson] but he got back out and Chris Phillips put [Komarov] back into [Anderson]. I don't know what you can say, other than they were correct and I felt they were incorrect."
Ottawa's best chance in the first period came from Erik Condra. With just under five minutes left, the wing skated into the zone and fired on Reimer, forcing the goaltender to make a left-pad save. The puck popped to Condra and he made another attempt, but Reimer on his stomach sprawled to protect his crease.
Reimer admitted he was nervous about leaving the upper portion of his net open to Condra as he made the second save.
"I was thinking, 'Please hit my pad,'" Reimer said. "You try and make a save, and you try to take away as much of the net as possible. You hope that he can't get the puck too high or that he's in too tight. They're good players over there and we're lucky to get the best of them."
The Maple Leafs' ninth shot on goal was the lucky one, allowing Toronto to take a 1-0 lead 8:42 into the second period. Cody Franson's attempt from the point was deflected by the foot of van Riemsdyk and slipped through Anderson's five-hole at 8:42.
Toronto made it 2-0 on a power-play goal after Zack Smith was called for high-sticking at 11:32. Kessel's shot from down low was blocked by Marc Methot, but the puck rebounded off the defenseman's body and found van Riemsdyk, who was able to catch Anderson out of position and score his second of the game.
"It was about getting bounces tonight," van Riemsdyk said. "The first one went off my foot and you take the pain for that. The second one, the rebound in front, sometimes those don't end up on your stick and you're still searching for it. I got lucky."
With 42 seconds left in the period, Ottawa got on the board after Lupul fanned on a backhand clearing attempt. Cory Conacher recovered the puck and set up Silfverberg with a cross-ice pass. The Swedish rookie fired a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle, beating Reimer on his blocker side for his first goal in 12 games.
With a handful of games left, the Senators have no time to lament the loss. Ottawa now prepares to square off against the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.
"It's frustrating," Senators forward Chris Neil said. "We're a team that wants to keep climbing, and just because we're in a playoff spot [right now] it doesn't mean we're satisfied with where we are."
MacLean said, "The Penguins are a good challenge for our team and we like challenges. There are four games left, and I've said all year that this is a sprint. We have to get back at it."
|James van Riemsdyk (17) ASST: Cody Franson (22), Phil Kessel (31)|
1 - 0 TOR
|PPG - James van Riemsdyk (18) ASST: Phil Kessel (32), Cody Franson (23)|
2 - 0 TOR
|Jakob Silfverberg (9) ASST: Cory Conacher (17)|
2 - 1 TOR
|Nazem Kadri (18) ASST: Nikolai Kulemin (16)|
3 - 1 TOR
|Joffrey Lupul (10) ASST: NONE|
4 - 1 TOR
|Matt Kassian Fighting against Frazer McLaren|
|Frazer McLaren Fighting against Matt Kassian|
|James van Riemsdyk Tripping against Kyle Turris|
|Kyle Turris Diving against James van Riemsdyk|
|Mark Fraser Interference against Mika Zibanejad|
|Chris Neil Interference - Goalkeeper against James Reimer|
|Zack Smith Hi-sticking against Colton Orr|
|Phil Kessel Slashing against Chris Neil|
|Colin Greening Slashing against Leo Komarov|