The Battle of Ontario was, for the most part, an even-handed affair Wednesday as the Leafs hosted the Senators - both Toronto and Ottawa had 11 shots on net in the first period - and both sides scored once in the opening frame.
HYMAN NETS GAME'S FIRST GOAL, BUT SENS TIE THINGS UP PRIOR TO END OF FIRST FRAME
The Maple Leafs opened the scoring at 7:46 of the first frame, when winger Mitch Marner worked with winger Zach Hyman to set the latter up for his 10th goal of the season and a 1-0 Buds lead:
Video: OTT@TOR: Hyman buries feed from Marner
The Senators evened the score at 17:18 of the first, on forward Magnus Paajarvi's sixth goal of the season. Ottawa may have been on a four-game losing streak entering Wednesday's game, but their divisional rivalry with Toronto almost always sees them pick up their game play in their clashes, and that's what we saw in the first period at Scotiabank Arena.
DUCHENE SCORES EARLY IN SECOND TO GIVE SENS FIRST LEAD OF NIGHT, BUT LEAFS SCORE THREE IN MIDDLE FRAME, TAKE 4-2 LEAD INTO THIRD
The Senators broke the tie at the 1:35 mark of the second period, and for much of the frame, Ottawa controlled the pace of the play, outshooting Toronto 16-12 in the second. However, in the final 5:40 of the second, the Leafs scored three times to pull even and then build a two-goal lead.
Goal No. 1 of that span came from winger Andreas Johnsson, who netted his third goal and fifth point in his past two games by beating Anderson on the backhand at the 14:20 mark:
Video: OTT@TOR: Johnsson whips backhander by Anderson
The Leafs then re-took the lead two minutes and nine seconds later on a fantastic individual effort from centre Auston Matthews, who produced his 24th goal of the year (and his third in four games):
Video: OTT@TOR: Matthews digs puck out, beats Anderson
Finally, centre John Tavares finished the scoring in the second period - and gave his side a 4-2 advantage - with 1:40 left before the second intermission when he watched linemate Mitch Marner toe-drag around a Sens defender before Marner passed to him and watched him score his 32nd of the season:
Video: OTT@TOR: Marner toe drags, sets up Tavares
Toronto's offensive prowess is well-known, and after Ottawa clawed its way back at the start of the second, it had to have hurt the Sens to see the Leafs overtake them again before the second intermission arrived.
SENS ERASE LEAFS' LEAD WITH TWO QUICK GOALS IN THIRD, BUT RIELLY'S MARKER IS GAME-WINNER, EXTENDS TORONTO'S WIN STREAK TO THREE
The Senators showed impressive resolve at the beginning of the third, getting a goal from defenceman Thomas Chabot 40 seconds into the period, then tying the game at four goals apiece on Paajarvi's second goal of the night at the 3:59 mark.
Unfortunately for any Sens fans who were in attendance, that was the final Ottawa goal of the game, and Toronto had one more goal left in it - a pretty goal from D-man Morgan Rielly for his 14th goal and career-record 53rd point of the season at 9:12 of the third:
Video: OTT@TOR: Rielly, Hyman team up for go-ahead goal
Rielly's give-and-go play with Marner turned out to be the game-winning play, despite Ottawa ramping up its efforts in the third (where they outshot Toronto 17-7 and ultimately forced Andersen to stop 40 of 44 Senators shots). The win is the Leafs' third in a row, a nice way to finish off their home stand before they leave for a road trip that begins Saturday night in Montreal.
Toronto has seen its offence come back to life in a major way, and although their power play remains a work-in-progress, if they can play this well at 5-on-5, they won't have to lean on their special teams to keep their win streak going.