OSHAWA, Ont. — Mark Stone
had the magic touch when it mattered the most.
The Ottawa Senators forward snapped home the winner at the 1:53 mark of overtime as the Ottawa Senators edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Tuesday night in a dramatic conclusion to the National Hockey League rookie tournament at the General Motors Centre.
With the triumph over their provincial rivals, the Senators secured top honours in the tournament with a perfect 3-0-0 record. Ottawa, which earlier recorded wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins (4-0) and Chicago Blackhawks (6-5), handed Toronto its lone loss in the event.
"It feels great," Stone, a sixth-round pick (178th overall) by the Senators in the 2010 NHL Entry, said about his game winner. "There’s a big rivalry between Toronto and Ottawa and to be able to come out on top like that, it’s great. And to be able to score that goal means a lot to me.
"I just remember getting the puck at the blue line and having a clear lane to the net. I was looking to feed (defenceman Eric) Gryba back door, but their defenceman, he bit real hard. I just had a clear lane and put it in the back of the net."
The 6-3, 202-pound forward, who was a standout at Hockey Canada's summer junior national camp and is now a strong candidate to wear the red maple leaf at the 2012 world juniors in Alberta, made one more statement about his rapid ascent in the last year. He totalled 106 points, including 37 goals, for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League last season.
"It was somewhat of a masterpiece, really," Binghamton Senators head coach Kurt Kleinendorst said of Stone's winning effort. "All in all, he might have struggled just a little bit. But that’s the sign of a good hockey player there, who didn’t necessarily have a great night but when we really needed him, he came through for us. Just a lot of poise and a good snap (shot) at the very end."
Ottawa appeared to have the game won in regulation on Mika Zibanejad
's blistering backhander at the 4:48 mark of the third period. But the Leafs forced overtime on Greg McKegg's goal with 48.2 seconds remaining on the clock. That hardly rattled the Senators, who regrouped quickly to notch the overtime winner.
"You don’t get too excited when you score and you have a lead, and you don’t get too down on yourself when they score and you (lose) the lead," said Kleinendorst. "My terminology is we soldier on. We don’t let anything affect us one way or the other. You’ve got to play the game the right way all the time, and I thought we handled that. You’ve just got to move on and keep going and we did."
For this young crop of Senators, it was quite the introduction to the Battle of Ontario.
"It’s huge," Stone said of beating the Leafs to win the tournament. "It shows a lot for the prospects in the Ottawa organization. We had a great group of guys here and we played for each other. That’s the reason we won."
Stephane Da Costa, with his fourth of the tourney, and Jakub Culek
also scored for the Senators, who build a 2-0 lead before the Leafs roared back on power-play goals by Matt Frattin and Sondre Olden.Shane Prince
collected three assists for the Senators, including the primary helper on Stone's winner.