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The Ottawa Senators started building momentum when they opened the season by sweeping the Toronto Maple Leafs in a home-and-home series. They've been nearly unbeatable since.
The Senators look to set a franchise record with their eighth straight victory and continue their recent dominance of the Maple Leafs when the Northeast Division rivals meet on Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.
One season after going to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history, the Senators (12-1-0) have emerged as the NHL's best team.
It all began when Dany Heatley scored his second goal of the game with 2:03 left in overtime to give the Senators a 4-3 win at Toronto on Oct. 3. The next night, Daniel Alfredsson provided the winner with 4:59 left in a 3-2 home victory for Ottawa.
The Senators opened with five straight victories before falling 5-3 at home to Carolina on Oct. 11. Since that defeat, they've won a franchise record-tying seven in a row, previously set from Oct. 25-Nov. 13, 2001.
Ottawa completed another home-and-home sweep Sunday, this time winning 2-1 in a shootout at Boston. Antoine Vermette scored the winner in the shootout after his short-handed goal early in the third period tied the game.
The Senators went a season-worst 0-for-6 on the power play after scoring three times in six opportunities with the man advantage in Saturday's 3-2 home win over the Bruins.
"I wouldn't say it was unorthodox, but to score a short-handed goal after having so many power-play opportunities and not really either finishing or looking very good," Senators coach John Paddock said after Sunday's victory. "To tie it short-handed, it's just a good 'find a way to win' game."
Martin Gerber earned his NHL-leading ninth win, making two saves in the shootout after stopping 21 shots in regulation and overtime. Gerber, who has displaced Ray Emery as Ottawa's starter, is 19-1-2 with a 2.01 goals-against average in 22 appearances since last Dec. 23.
Toronto (6-6-3) opened a four-game road trip with a 3-2 loss to New Jersey on Friday, but avoided a third straight defeat Saturday as Matt Stajan scored with 1:34 left in the third period to give the Leafs a 3-2 win at Montreal.
"I thought coming into this building on a Saturday night on back-to-back nights, with them rested and them rolling the way they are, to win in regulation, it's a great outing for us," Toronto coach Paul Maurice said.
The Maple Leafs, whose 57 goals against are tied with Atlanta for the most in the NHL, improved to 5-0-0 when allowing fewer than three scores.
"We played two good road games this weekend but, unfortunately, we only got two points," goalie Vesa Toskala said. "But I like how we played. I felt pretty good. I got a little lucky a couple of times."
Heatley has 23 goals and 43 points against Toronto, both career bests against any opponent. Jason Spezza has a goal and 13 assists during a seven-game point streak against the Leafs, but he's missed Ottawa's last three contests with a slight groin pull.
The Senators are 14-2-2, including 7-1-1 at home, against the Maple Leafs since the start of the 2005-06 season.
Forward Mark Bell will make his debut for Toronto on Tuesday after completing a 15-game suspension for a drinking and driving incident. Kyle Wellwood, who has been sidelined after having surgery for a sports hernia, is also likely to make his season debut.