March 4, 2006
|The Leafs played hard but still came up short |
--Dany Heatley's blast 4:24 into the third period broke a tie and Zdeno Chara added an empty-net goal with 12 seconds remaining as the Ottawa Senators defeated the stumbling Maple Leafs 4-2 Saturday night, further damaging Toronto's playoff hopes.
Heatley stepped inside the blue-line and rifled a slap shot top corner over Ed Belfour's stick side, sending the Leafs to their fifth consecutive defeat as they continue to slip down the NHL's Eastern Conference standings.
Ottawa's Bryan Smolinski took a hooking penalty with 16 seconds left. With Belfour already on the bench, Toronto had a two-man advantage to take one final stab at forcing overtime, but Chara scored sent the puck from his own zone into the middle of the empty net to begin the Senators' celebration.
Patrick Eaves and Brian Pothier also scored for the high-flying Senators (40-14-5), who ran their record to a perfect 7-0-0 against their Ontario cousins this season, although this was a game that for some reason lacked the emotion and intensity usually exhibited between the two clubs.
Alexander Ponikarovsky and Alexander Steen scored for Toronto (27-28-5), which continues its nightmarish second half of the season. Since improving to a season-high nine games over .500 with a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 2, the Leafs have gone 4-14-2 and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since head coach Pat Quinn took over in 1998-99.
The Leafs, 11th in the East, are home against eighth-place Montreal on Tuesday. The Canadiens first play the Flyers in Philadelphia on Monday night.
Toronto also once again lost Eric Lindros. The Leafs centre, who recently returned after missing 27 games with a wrist injury, didn't return to the game for the third period after aggravating the same injury.
Ray Emery stopped 21 shots to win his third straight start since taking over for the injured Dominik Hasek after the Olympic break. Belfour made 22 saves in dropping his fourth consecutive start.
The Leafs gave the 19,486 fans on hand brief hope in the first period when Steen opened the scoring, one-timing a nice backhand pass from the behind the net by Chad Kilger at 11:54.
Eves tied it 1-1 at 3:08 of the second period, shovelling a rebound in front between Belfour's legs. It was 2-1 Ottawa just over a minute later when Pothier launched a long drive from the point that beat a screened Belfour.
Ponikarovsky tied it 2-2 at 8:09 of the second period thanks to a nifty pass in front from Darcy Tucker after Emery made the first save.
Notes: The fans were on their feet for a pre-game ceremony honouring tough guy Tie Domi and his 1,000 career NHL game, which he played Friday night in Buffalo. Among those on hand for his presentation were former Leaf fan favourites Doug Gilmour and Tiger Williams. "I don't call you guys fans, I call you friends,'' Domi told the crowd during his speech . . . The Sens were once again without Hasek (groin) and sniper Martin Havlat (shoulder). There's no time table for Hasek's return while Havlat is expected back the first week of April. Christoph Schubert was a healthy scratch . . . Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion) and Nik Antropov (shoulder/arm) were out for Toronto, the latter getting hurt Friday night.