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Leafs top sickly Sens 2-1 in shootout

by Brian Compton
Several players on the Ottawa Senators' roster were under the weather on Saturday night, but goaltender Pascal Leclaire made sure his team went home with a point in the standings.

Two nights after being pulled for allowing two goals on five shots, Leclaire made 30 saves in a rough 2-1 shootout loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Place.

"Last game was a little short and I wasn't happy about it," Leclaire said. "I just wanted to be solid and give my team a chance to win. I wasn't worried about big saves, I just wanted to have a solid game and I think I did that."

Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin scored on Toronto’s first two shootout attempts, while Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson denied Alex Kovalev and Jason Spezza in back-to-back rounds to secure the victory.

The Senators were without captain Daniel Alfredsson and Peter Regin, who were both suffering from the flu. Others played despite still experiencing symptoms, although some were forced to leave the bench during play. Minor-league forward Zack Smith managed to join the team from AHL Binghamton in time to start the second period.

"Things are pretty bad in there," Spezza said. "It's just a matter of degrees of how bad guys are feeling, but no excuses. We still wanted to win the game, but it's nice to get a point."

It was six years ago that a similar virus hit the Senators in a home game against the Leafs where they'd taken a 4-0 lead. But only a few players remained on the Ottawa bench by the end of the contest, and the Leafs went on to win 5-4 in overtime.

Leclaire helped the Sens reach overtime on Saturday, helping Ottawa kill three penalties in the third period, including a 24-second two-man advantage. Toronto went 0-for-6 on the power play.

"He kept us in the game," Sens forward Matt Carkner. "Hopefully a game like this can get his confidence back up because he did play really well for us."  

Chris Neil scored the lone goal of the period, which came via the power play at 17:03, when he poked Spezza's rebound past Gustavsson for his eighth goal of the season.

But Kessel tied the game 6:50 into the second, when the Leafs peppered Leclaire with 13 shots. Kessel, who was acquired from Boston in a deal that sent a pair of first-round draft picks to the Bruins, has 22 goals this season.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson was proud to see his team respond after it lost forward John Mitchell early in the game following a hit by Neil.

"We had a couple guys get knocked out of the game," Wilson said. "Our team rather than shrink away stood up and played physical and it was a great effort by everybody."

Material from wire services was used in this report
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