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Sens Get Win In Finale

Saturday, 05.04.2003 / 9:59 PM / News
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Sens Get Win In Finale
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TORONTO (Ticker) -- While everyone else was looking toward the playoffs, Matt Stajan was talking about his goal.

Stajan scored in his NHL debut, but the Ottawa Senators stole the spotlight, finishing the best season in franchise history with a meaningless 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Todd White scored with one second left in the first period and defenseman Zdeno Chara tallied early in the second, helping the Senators reach 113 points, four more than the previous franchise mark set in 2000-01.

The Senators, who will be the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, also established team records for wins (52) and matched franchise marks for fewest losses (21) and points on the road (51).

The Leafs couldn't quite hold off the Sens.
Graig Abel Photography
"This year, we're a pretty confident team," said Marian Hossa, who scored a franchise-record 45 goals. "We won the Presidents' Trophy; that was one of our goals. Now in front of us is the playoffs, and we have to prove we can be the better team."

Stajan was the best player on the ice, for a moment at least.

He scored on his first NHL shot, intercepting Chris Phillips' pass between the circles and putting a quick shot past goaltender Trevor Kidd.

"I don't think it can get much better, my first shot on net, I managed to put it in," said Stajan, a 19-year-old from Ontario.

But that was the only goal for the Maple Leafs, who fell two points short of 100. They already were locked into the fifth seed in the East and a first-round encounter with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"Any team you play in the Eastern Conference, it's going to be a difficult series," said defenseman Phil Housley, who made his Leafs debut. "They boosted their lineup with offensive scoring.

It's going to be difficult."

Toronto had a tough time with the top seed in the East.

White fanned on a stuff attempt but scored when the puck went off Kidd's left skate and into the net to tie it at 1-1 in the last second of the first period. Chara finished a tic-tac-toe passing play in front 91 seconds into the second.

With the likes of Mats Sundin, Alexander Mogilny and Robert Reichel sitting out for the Leafs and Wade Redden, Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski taking off for the Senators, there were few other scoring chances.

Ottawa finally put the game out of reach with 68 seconds to play, finishing a 2-on-1 with Hossa. It sealed yet another win for the Senators, sending them to a first-round matchup with the New York Islanders on a high.

That's happened before. The Senators were the second seed in 2001 but got swept in the first round by the Leafs, who have eliminated Ottawa each of the past three years.

"There's always pressure on teams that are successful," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "I think you've got to rise to the challenge. You can't be afraid of pressure."

Stajan would be feeling the pressure, if he had any chance of making the postseason roster as six wingers were scratched in the Leafs' regular-season finale. But that didn't take away from Stajan's joy.

"It was a good break for myself," he said. "I'm just fortunate to get that first one out of the way. Hopefully, it's the start of a long career."
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