It’s been a rough season for Toronto Maple Leafs
defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo
Injuries have limited the Toronto native to only eight games in 2007-08 — so you can understand why the 25-year-old was jubilant when he broke a 2-2 tie in the third period of Saturday night’s 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre.
“It feels special … it really does. Right now, I’m getting back to the little things and keeping it simple,” Colaiacovo said. “I feel like I’m getting better with each game. I just build on each one. It helps when you win.”
It was a tough night for the injury-plagued Senators, who were not awarded a power play all night. Toronto, meanwhile, went 1-for-6 with the man advantage. The loss left Senators center Jason Spezza frustrated afterwards.
“We’re giving up a few too many goals,” Spezza said. “We have areas we’ve got to work on. I think we’ve gone through a little bit of a tough stretch here, and we’re missing some bodies. It makes it tougher and tougher. Everything kind of hops on top of each other. I think it’s a matter of weathering the storm and making sure we get things straightened out. It’s a lot better to have these problems now than to have them towards the end of the season. I’m sure we’ll be able to cure them.”
They’d better do it quickly. Ottawa’s loss, combined with Montreal’s 4-1 win over the New York Islanders, cut the Senators’ lead in the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference standings to three points. The Canadiens can get within one with a win at home over the New York Rangers on Sunday.
The Leafs got off to the start they were hoping for as they scored a pair of goals less than five minutes apart during the first period. Dominic Moore broke a scoreless tie 9:32 into the game with his first goal in Toronto. Moore, who was acquired off waivers from the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 11, knocked a rebound past Ray Emery.
On a power play, rookie Jiri Tlusty put the Leafs up by two at 14:27 when he outworked Mike Fisher for a loose puck before backhanding it past Emery to make it 2-0. It was Tlusty’s fifth goal of the season.
''We had a bit of a tough start in the first period, and in the second we were undisciplined, took a lot of penalties and couldn't seem to get much momentum going at all throughout the whole game,'' Fisher said. ''They deserved to win.''
Nick Foligno quickly cut Ottawa’s deficit in half when he beat Vesa Toskala with 4:42 remaining in the opening period. The Sens’ forward parked himself in front of the net, where he redirected Randy Robitaille’s shot past Toskala to make it 2-1. Ottawa went into the intermission trailing by just a goal despite being outshot 12-3 in the opening 20 minutes.
After a scoreless second period, Chris Neil tied the game 92 seconds into the third. While Toskala was able to make an initial save, the Leafs’ netminder left a big rebound for Neil, who put home the second chance to make it 2-2. It was his sixth goal of the season.
But Toronto regained the lead for good when Colaiacovo found the back of the net for his first goal of the season at 4:28. Despite missing most of the season due to injuries, Colaiacovo brought the capacity crowd to its feet as he took a nifty pass from rookie Robbie Earl and tapped it into an open net as the Leafs took a 3-2 lead. The assist was Earl’s first NHL point.
“We knew they had some key guys out of their lineup, but they’re still a really good defensive team,” Colaiacovo said. “We were really satisfied with the position we were in going into the third, especially playing a team like that Ottawa. We had a good feeling that this would be our game.”
Jason Blake rounded out the scoring when he drove to the net and took a pass from Matt Stajan before ripping a shot past Emery for his 11th goal of the season at 8:08.
“They got a couple of chances, and they got some goals,” Spezza said. “They carried a lot of momentum from the first two periods. It’s tough when you’re shorthanded eight times and you don’t get a power play.”
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.