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Leafs Still Can't Get By Sens

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Tony Care

The 48th Highlanders performed in a special ceremony before the game. Frank Mahovlich was honoured with his number raised high in the rafters. With all the ceremony and inspiration the Leafs still can't seem to beat the Senators in a regular season game. Ottawa beat the Leafs 5-4 on the opening night of the NHL season and in the process, continue to have Toronto's number.

The Leafs, who are celebrating their 75th year, simply don't have an answer for the Senators during the season, yet they managed to knock Ottawa out of the playoffs two straight years including a four-game sweep in the most recent Stanley Cup tournament. The Senators have now beaten the Leafs in seven straight games. Last year, Ottawa won all five meetings with the Leafs in dominating fashion.

"In the regular season they own us," said Leaf goaltender Curtis Joseph. "They're a good hockey club. They work hard, but I thought tonight would've been a nice night to get a victory. The ice conditions weren't great but we have to be better than that. Unfortunately, we didn't keep it out of our net."

However, when it really matters, Ottawa is no match for Toronto. The Leafs barely made into the playoffs last year and looked to be an easy opponent for the second-seeded Sens. But Toronto relied on relentless forechecking and a great defensive game plan to sweep its provincial rivals. Two years ago, the Leafs only won one game in the regular season, but in the playoffs they beat the Senators in six games.

Both teams still look to be in preseason form. There were plenty of giveaways at both ends of the ice and 11 penalties were called. The difference in the game was the four power-play goals Toronto gave up, including a questionable five-minute major that was handed to Darcy Tucker.

The good news for Toronto is that its offence appears to be in terrific shape. The line of Alexander Mogilny, Gary Roberts and Robert Reichel combined for six points. Mogilny scored two goals and showed why he's such a dangerous weapon when he has the puck. But the loss overshadowed anything Mogilny did on the ice.

"I'm obviously not happy with this loss," he said. "We have to learn from our mistakes. We allowed four power-play goals and in this league that's unacceptable. You can't allow any team to score that many power-play goals."

Once again, the defence looked shaky, but the forwards should take some responsibility for not backchecking. Anything the offence did was negated by the forwards not paying attention to their defensive assignment.

"That means nothing," said Mogilny when talking about his two goals. "We have no points on the board as a team so what's the difference? We scored four goals and it means nothing. We still lost the game. We all have to tighten up defensively. We allowed five goals and that's not good enough."

Darcy Tucker was assessed a five-minute major for checking Senators defenceman Karel Rachunek into the boards in the first period. The check looked clean and referee Don Van Massenhoven didn't call the penalty until he saw Rachunek still lying on the ice.

"I thought the hit was really clean," said Tucker. "I didn't do anything out of the limits. I didn't leave my feet and I didn't charge. He was reaching for the puck and when you reach for the puck and try to get out at the way at the same time you're going to get hit. Obviously you don't want to hurt anybody but at the same time you want to change the momentum of the game and make a big play. Every one of my teammates said it was a clean hit."

Rachunek lay motionless on the ice for several minutes and was taken out of the game on a stretcher. Test results didn't show any disk fractures in his back. Rachunek will be re-evaluated on Thursday. Check out the full scoring summary and event details from
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