Different Players Yet Leafs Still Beat Senators
Saturday, 02.04.2011 / 10:01 PM / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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There are so few holdovers left from the good old days.
You couldn’t be blamed for looking for Daniel Alfredsson, Alexei Yashin and Wade Redden. Not even a sighting of, God bless him, Patrick Lalime the nicest bad goalie of them all.
As well, as much as you wanted to see the ghost of Curtis Joseph knocking over Mick McGeough, Gary Roberts and Mats Sundin pumping goals past Lalime, they weren’t there.
The Maple Leafs beat the Senators 4-2 Saturday in a play that, from the Toronto point of view, had a good first and third act. The Leafs, worthy winners on the night, were helped with goals from Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin. Jason Spezza had both goals for the Senators.
But while it’s been the first meeting in years between the two clubs with actual meaning, the Ottawa-Toronto rivalry is dead and buried.
The Senators are 29th in a 30-team league and veering into the same dispiriting tunnel the Leafs are now exiting. If that wasn’t quite clear Saturday night, it will be soon enough.
With Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar both out with injuries, the Senators have a pitiable defence and not much more up front. Craig Anderson has been signed long-term, extending the team’s storied history of combustible goaltending.
The Leafs have won six out of seven and have apparently not heard that the playoff race is pretty well over. They now sit three points behind the New York Rangers in eighth spot. The Rangers have lost their last two games. The Leafs play three more times, Tuesday against Washington, Wednesday in New Jersey and Saturday against the Habs. The Rangers have four games left.
The Leafs outshot Ottawa 30-25 but aside from a stretch in the middle of the game, they were the better team.
“We really needed the points,” said James Reimer. “We didn’t play our best for a few minutes in the second but other than that I thought we played well.”
The win brought Reimer’s win total to 20-8-4.
“My goal was to get to 20 wins,” said the 23-year-old. “Now my goal is to get 23 wins.”
Kessel, scored his 30th of the season on a play maybe five percent of NHL players can make, blowing by a Sens defenceman who had a perfectly fine angle for just about anyone else and rapping a rebound past Anderson.
In the second, Nazem Kadri registered his fourth point in the last four games, not counting the magic mittens shootout goal against Boston, Thursday. The 20-year-old winger collected a loose puck behind the net and banked a shot past Anderson.
“I thought we had the game under control,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, “until we had a bad decision at the blue line. That goal gave them some hope.”
Spezza’s goal, his 18th in 58 games on a breakaway created when Luke Schenn under pressure could not corral a bouncing puck near the Ottawa blue line.
The Senators kept coming in the third. With the Sens enjoying a power play Spezza’s hard shot from the top of the circle tied the game 2-2.
The Leafs capitalized on a power play of their own as Bozak’s skate got in the way of a Joffrey Lupul shot that skittered over Anderson.
Kulemin went to the net in the game’s second-last minute for the final margin for the Leafs eighth win in 11 games.