April 16, 2004
GAME: Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; tied 2-2.
TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EDT.
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Ed Belfour dominated the Ottawa Senators during four regular-season matchups.
Belfour continued that mastery of the Senators early on in the teams' first-round playoff series, but after his performance in Game 4, it seems Ottawa has finally solved the Toronto netminder.
The fifth-seeded Senators and fourth-seeded Leafs meet in a pivotal Game 5 when they face off at Air Canada Centre.
Belfour went 3-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average and a shutout against Ottawa in the regular season series - won 4-1-1 by Toronto - but he lost 4-2 in Game 1 as the Senators stole the home-ice advantage away from the Leafs.
Belfour rebounded with two straight shutouts as Toronto took back home ice with 2-0 wins in Games 2 and 3. On Wednesday, however, the Senators peppered Belfour with 36 shots and finally got the puck past him as they tied the series at 2-all with a 4-1 win in Ottawa.
Daniel Alfredsson scored late in the first period to end Belfour's shutout streak at 157 minutes, 45 seconds, and Marian Hossa got the go-ahead goal in the second period to lead the Senators.
Ottawa held a 36-24 margin in shots, reaching the 30 mark for the fourth straight game. The Senators have outshot Toronto in each game of the series.
"There was no way he was going to shut us out for three straight games," Alfredsson said.
Hossa, who had six shots in the first period, thrust his arms skyward after he scored his third goal of the series to give the Senators the lead at 13:15 of the second.
"That definitely was a big relief," said Hossa, who had a team-high 10 shots in Ottawa's Game 3 loss Monday. "I knew that if I just kept shooting, eventually one has to go in, and that one did."
Gary Roberts scored on a power play 16:53 into the first period Wednesday to give Toronto a 1-0 lead, but the Leafs struggled the rest of the way.
"They're a great team for a reason," Roberts said. "They've had a great season. We know they're a good hockey club and we need to be smarter to play against them. They've got a lot of skilled guys. You give them those good opportunities and eventually they're going to score."
Already without injured center Joe Nieuwendyk, Toronto lost captain Mats Sundin early in the third period. Sundin slid into the boards after being tripped by Ottawa defenseman Wade Redden while on a partial breakaway. No penalty was called.
"I hope he's OK and he'll be able to go for us next game," Leafs defenseman Brian Leetch said of Sundin, who has a team-high four points in the series. "(Joe's) got a sore back and we were watching him get rehab in here the last couple of days, so we knew that he was questionable going into the game."
Nieuwendyk scored his second goal of the series in Toronto's 2-0 win on Monday.
Game 6 will be played in Ottawa on Sunday night, and if necessary, Game 7 will be Tuesday in Toronto.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Senators - 102 points, 5th seed; Maple Leafs - 103 points, 4th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Hossa, 3 goals; Martin Havlat, 3 assists; Hossa, Havlat and Alfredsson, 3 points; Chris Neil, 11 PIM. Maple Leafs - Roberts, 3 goals; Sundin, 3 assists and 4 points; Nik Antropov, 12 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 12.5 percent (3 for 24). Penalty killing: 85.7 percent (18 for 21). Maple Leafs - Power play: 14.3 percent (3 for 21). Penalty killing: 87.5 percent (21 for 24).
GOALTENDERS: Senators - Patrick Lalime (2-2, 1.76 GAA); Martin Prusek (no appearances). Maple Leafs - Belfour (2-2, 2 SO, 2.00); Trevor Kidd (no appearances).-- Associated Press