The Toronto Maple Leafs
won't go away.
The Leafs stayed alive for a little while longer in the Eastern Conference playoff race by beating the Senators 4-2 in Ottawa on Saturday night. The win moved the 10th-place Leafs within two points of ninth-place and three points of the eighth-place Rangers. Both of those teams have a game in hand that they'll play Sunday. All three have three games in the season's final seven days.
"We've narrowed the gap on the Rangers a little bit so we'll see what happens," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
Tyler Bozak's goal early in the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin also scored for the Leafs, who improved to 18-7-5 since the All-Star break. Rookie goaltender James Reimer stopped 23 shots for his 20th win.
Jason Spezza scored at 19:05 of the second period and tied the game briefly by beating Reimer 3:03 into the third. Craig Anderson made 26 saves for the Senators, who are 14th in the East.
Losing to their Ontario rivals at home didn't make Spezza happy, despite his own performance.
"We would have liked to have had a better result. We have a pretty big rivalry with these guys and there's a good hate on between the two teams and we definitely wanted to win the hockey game," Spezza said.
"Give them credit. They had a big game to win and they won it, but it would have been nice to beat them though."
Bozak broke the 2-2 tie when he beat Anderson for a power-play goal at 5:42. Kulemin sealed the victory when he scored with 1:20 left -- keeping the Leafs' slim hopes alive for at least a few more days.
"It shows the character of our group to not let momentum shifts, whether good or bad, affect how we play," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said.
"It was good to respond. You can't get down when another team scores or they're going to keep coming. It's another huge two points for our team and now we move forward."
Kessel scored 12:23 into the game to reach the 30-goal mark, and Kadri took advantage of a rare miscue by Anderson to put the Leafs ahead 2-0 at 4:32 of the second period. Anderson misplayed the puck behind his own net, and as he tried to get back into his crease Kadri banked a shot off the Ottawa goalie and into the net.
Spezza cut the lead in half when he scored on a breakaway.
"We had the game in control and made a bad decision at the end of the period and it gave them a little hope," Wilson said.
"Fortunately when they tied the game we got a power play and we managed to score a goal on it. We got the job done so I'm happy with that."
Stephane Da Costa, a star at Merrimack College, played his first NHL game after signing an entry-level contract with the Senators on Friday. He became the sixth native of France to play in the NHL.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.