April 12, 2004
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; tied 1-1.
TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EDT.
For all their talent and marquee names, the key to success for the Toronto Maple Leafs is physical play and intensity.
Missing in the series opener, that style returned for Toronto in Game 2 and a victory was the result.
Toronto will look to continue its abrasive play when its Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the archrival Ottawa Senators shifts to the Corel Centre for Game 3.
Following a disappointing performance by his team in a 4-2 loss in the series opener, Toronto coach Pat Quinn shuffled his lineup for Game 2 on Saturday.
Rugged forward Darcy Tucker, who had missed 14 games with an abdominal injury, replaced Mikael Renberg on the top line with Mats Sundin and Gary Roberts. Defenceman Ken Klee, sidelined the past eight games with a shoulder injury, returned to the lineup in place of Aki Berg.
Sundin assisted on goals by Roberts in the first and second period, and Ed Belfour stopped 31 shots for his 12th postseason shutout, a 2-0 Toronto victory that squared the series at one game apiece.
Though Tucker and Klee didn't record any points, their presence alone helped Toronto play a more physical and determined game. Tucker's return seemed to bring out the best in Sundin and Roberts, both pointless in Game 1.
"They both gave us a big spark," Toronto defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "Kenny was solid defensively and Tucker was his usual self, running people over and playing really hard. He's a spark plug, a little pest."
Tomas Kaberle played much better in Game 2 paired with Klee, often his regular defence partner during the regular season.
"Ken was his partner for a long time," Quinn said. "There is a sense of comfort that comes with some guys playing with certain guys."
With the series shifting to Ottawa for the next two games, the Leafs know they must find a way to maintain the intensity they displayed Saturday.
"If the hit is there, you have to take it," Roberts said. "If it's not, you can't go looking for it or you end up going out of position."
While Roberts, Tucker, Sundin and the rest of the Leafs were solid in Game 2, none were better than Belfour, who recorded his 83rd playoff victory to tie New Jersey's Martin Brodeur for the most among active goalies.
Belfour made his best stop during an Ottawa 5-on-3 power play in the third period, robbing Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson with a glove save.
"Eddie gives us a chance to win every night and he did it again," Roberts said.
Toronto doesn't figure to be intimidated playing at the Corel Centre, where it won all three meetings during the regular season, including a 6-0 victory in the regular season finale April 3.
While the Leafs play their best when they're physical, the Senators have to find a way to remain disciplined. Ottawa gave Toronto seven power-play opportunities in Game 2, and Roberts cashed in at 6:02 of the second period.
"We've got to play better as a team and we've got to have more discipline," Alfredsson said. "We couldn't get our power play going and we have to adjust to what the officials are calling."
While they weren't pleased with their performance in Game 2, the Senators know they're in good position after splitting the first two games of a best-of-seven series on the road.
"We have to work harder, but we've got a lot we can build on," Ottawa goalie Patrick Lalime said. "We got the split and we're going home. We feel like we're in a good position."
Finding a way to contain Roberts should be a top priority for the Senators. In 13 playoff games against Ottawa, Roberts has nine goals and six assists.
Game 4 is Wednesday at the Corel Centre.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Maple Leafs - 103 points; 4th seed. Senators - 102 points; 5th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Roberts, 2 goals; Brian Leetch and Sundin, 2 assists; Roberts, Leetch and Sundin, 2 points; Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov, 6 PIM. Senators - Marian Hossa, 2 goals; Martin Havlat, 2 assists, Hossa and Havlat, 2 points; seven with 4 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.0 percent (2 for 10). Penalty killing: 85.7 percent (12 for 14). Senators - Power play: 14.3 percent (2 for 14). Penalty killing: 80.0 percent (8 for 10).
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Belfour (1-1, 1 SO, 2.00 GAA); Trevor Kidd (no appearances). Senators - Lalime (1-1, 2.01); Martin Prusek (no appearances).
-- Associated Press