The Ottawa Senators hold on the #2 seed in the East was short-lived as a Boston shootout win earlier in the afternoon put the Sens back to 7th. A win against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs would put them back into 2nd and keep the pressure on the Bruins.
Ben Bishop made his 6th straight start, one night after defeating the Canadiens in Overtime. James Reimer was manning the net for the Leafs.
After seeing Chris Neil‘s fight on Friday night spark the Senators, Sergei Gonchar apparently wanted to do the same early on, as he obliged Clarke MacArthur for his second career fight, and his first since November 1998 against Guy Carbonneau. Gonchar didn’t fare very well, and likely won’t be dropping the gloves again any time soon. That was about the only excitement in an otherwise dull 20 minutes, as there were no scoring and not a great number of scoring chances generated, and the shots were only 7-4 in favor of Ottawa
The Leafs were the beneficiary of a weird bounce as Ben Bishop was slow in returning to his net after stopping the puck behind it, and Erik Karlsson was hurried and banked it in off Bishop’s leg for the “own goal”. Tim Connolly got credit for the icebreaker at the 7:20 mark. Tempers flared when Nick Foligno and Luke Schenn squared off, with Schenn having the upper hand at the start but Foligno finishing it off. During the same stoppage, Neil gave rookie Carter Ashton a shove, after which Mikhail Grabovski shoved Neil and they dropped the gloves as well. It wasn’t much of a fight with one referee getting involved, but both were ejected for being in the 2nd fight on the same stoppage in play.
An early hooking penalty by Jim O’Brien on Phil Kessel gave the Leafs a man advantage, and Kessel made it count with a shot through traffic that eluded Bishop. On a 5-on-3, Spezza booted the puck in, but couldn’t get his stick on it before it crossed the line, so the goal was disallowed. The Senators didn’t press much after that attempt and a full 2 minute 5-on-3 advantage for the Leafs during which Phaneuf scored was the nail in the coffin for the Sens. Colin Greening ended the shutout bid with 1:09 left in the game, but it was too little, too late and the Leafs went on to win 3-1.
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SENSHOT’S THREE STARS
I can’t even bother to name 3 stars in this one. I guess it would be Phaneuf, Kessel and Reimer if a gun was put to my head.
Just like the last time these teams met, there wasn’t a single Senator player who stood out in a good way. It was demoralizing, frustrating to watch and I imagine even more to play.
Riemer nearly got his 2nd straight shutout against Ottawa, and again they made his night incredibly easy, this time only firing 30 shots at the Leafs ‘tender.
Mercifully that is the last time these teams will meet this season. Ottawa needs to regroup from 3 relatively weak efforts against divisional rivals. The New Jersey Devils come to town and if the Sens keep playing this way, their playoff spot will not be so assured at this time next week.