For the second time in two weeks, the lowly Ottawa Senators took down the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice. Despite Toronto outplaying Ottawa for most of the game, it was the Senators who made the most of their chances. The Sens ultimately earned a 4-2 victory over the Leafs on Saturday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
Posting back-to-back wins against the NHL’s sixth ranked team is a major confidence boost for the young Senators, who are in the early stages of a rebuild. Defeating their provincial rivals also gives Senator fans pride and builds optimism for a brighter season next year.
Meanwhile, losses against the NHL’s worst team does nothing to help the Maple Leafs. Toronto is still vying to clinch a 2019 playoff berth. On top of this pressure, the Leafs must rebuild their own confidence and poise if they want any chance of advancing from round-one, assuming they clinch.
Anthony Duclair earned three points (2G, 1A), while Magnus Paajarvi, Colin White, and Brady Tkachuk all enjoyed a pair of points each for the Senators. Cody Ceci scored the game winner. Goaltender Craig Anderson earned the game’s first star for his outstanding performance.
“They outshot us tonight and they had a lot of quality chances, but Craig stood tall all night. He did everything that you could ask, and more”, said Senators head coach Marc Crawford following the game.
This game was the final Battle of Ontario for the 2018-19 season. The Senators had the Maple Leafs number for most of the year, earning an impressive record of 3-1-0 against one of the NHL’s most potent teams. With the win, Ottawa improves their record to 28-44-6 and 62 points. The Leafs, on the other hand, drop to 45-26-7 and hold steady with 97 points. 35 points separate these two teams in the standings.
For the Senators, the first period was defined with at least four big hits and trying to limit scoring chances from an offensively gifted opponent. Despite getting outshot 18-7, Anderson was outstanding and his team was able to keep the game scoreless. Zack Smith landed two big hits, the first on Ron Hainsey and the second on John Tavares. Dylan DeMelo and Ben Harpur also used their bodies to check Marner and Frederik Gauthier, respectively.
William Nylander had five shots on goal this period, and would eventually add two more to tie Matthews with the most shots on goal this game by a player.
The Senators opened the game’s scoring 5:24 into the second period. Matthews gave away the puck at his blue line to Paajarvi, who slid it to Oscar Lindberg, who set-up Duclair for a one-timer. The 23-year-old released the puck so hard, it was in and out of the Leafs net before many in the building had realized.
Following the goal, Anderson made a clutch save against Tavares. The Leafs sniper found himself breaking in on the 37-year-old goalie all alone. Without getting mystified, ‘Andy’ stayed with the 45-goal scorer and rebuffed his Grade A scoring attempt.
Ottawa scored their second goal of the game at 14:43, when Paajarvi and Duclair connected again. This time, it was Duclair passing to Paajarvi in the slot. The 27-year-old spun around and whistled a shot right through Garret Sparks five-hole.
Afterwards, the Leafs amped up their offensive pressure against the Senators in response. However, it was Anderson again, this time denying Patrick Marleau with a glove save. On the following play, the Senators goalie made a poke-check save on Marner.
Early in the third period, Ottawa began playing with fire when they gave Toronto back-to-back power plays. First, Brian Gibbons went off for interference. Then, Tkachuk followed for the same infraction. Although they successfully killed off the first penalty, Matthews made Ottawa pay on the second. The 21-year-old goal scorer ripped a shot top shelf to get the Leafs on the board. It was his 37th of the season.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 31, 2019
Just 27 seconds later, Chris Tierney gave the puck away on a Senators attack. Capitalizing on the misplay, Brown skated down the ice and scored in the same spot as Matthews, picking Anderson’s high glove side.
With the game suddenly tied, Canadian Tire Centre was loud and alive again with energy. The many Maple Leaf faithful of Leafs Nation finally had reason to cheer. However, all the hostile noise and chants did not phase the Senators.
Ottawa stormed right back with an odd-man entry into Toronto territory. On a pretty passing play, Tkachuk gave the puck to White, who dropped it back to Ceci. It was only fitting for an Ottawa native to fire home the eventual game-winning goal against Toronto with a high wrist shot past Sparks.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 31, 2019
In the final minutes of the game, Anderson once again came up big for his team. First, he denied a streaking Jake Muzzin in close range. Then, the Leafs defender had a second opportunity to tie the game, but he rung it off the cross-bar.
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Although Anderson made many memorable saves in this match, his biggest was no other than a game-winning save on Marner. With the Leafs rushing into the Senators zone on a two-on-one, Anderson stretched out his pad to stymie the dangerous Maple Leaf who one-timed a pass from Zach Hyman.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 31, 2019
The American goalie finished this game with a 2.01 goals against average and a .955 save percentage.
Duclair would add an empty netter for the Senators to cap the game score at 4-2.
The Paajarvi Factor
Magnus Paajarvi seems to love playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs as an Ottawa Senator. In four games against the Maple Leafs this season, the former first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers has six points. This includes five goals and one assist. With performances like these against Ottawa’s provincial rival, Paajarvi finds himself in the middle of rejuvenating the Battle of Ontario.
Paajarvi is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 1.
Duclair-ing His Case
Anthony Duclair is a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
However, in 17 games since arriving to Ottawa, he has made a strong case for the Senators to consider locking him up to an extension. The native of Pointe-Claire, Quebec is on the verge of a 20-goal season. Since becoming a Senator, he has already racked up 13 points, including seven goals and six assists. Previously as a Columbus Blue Jacket, he only had 19 points in 53 games.
Duclair’s performance against the Maple Leafs was one of his best as a Senator. It also showed there is clearly no quit from this talented player, even though his team has little to play for at this point in the season.
After playing for five teams in five NHL seasons, there could be a chance Duclair may finally get to call Ottawa his home.
Losing His Spark
Garret Sparks has clearly fallen out of favor in Leafs Nation.
The back-up goalie received loud jeers throughout the game from disgruntled Leaf fans in attendance at Canadian Tire Centre. Unfortunately for Sparks, this has happened before, when he was in the crease for a 6-2 loss against the Senators on Mar. 16. He has a 4.52 goals-against average and .860 save percent these past two games in the Canadian capital.
Following the game, Anderson commented, “I feel bad for Sparks. He gets those false cheers on some dump-ins, but, you know, it’s a difficult place to play in Ottawa”.
- Mark Borowiecki was out of the line-up with an upper-body injury.
- Travis Dermott returned to the Maple Leafs lineup after missing the last 14 games due to a shoulder injury.
- Senators top prospect Erik Brannstrom was in attendance to experience the intensity between the Ontario rivals. The 19-year-old recently suffered an upper-body injury playing for the Belleville Senators. He is listed as week to week.
- In the final minute of the game, the Senators trolled the Leafs by playing Toronto’s Hall and Oates goal song.
Official 3 Stars of the Game
- Craig Anderson, Ottawa
- Anthony Duclair, Ottawa
- Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa
The Senators start their final week of the 2018-19 regular season against the NHL’s first-place team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. This game is scheduled for Monday at Canadian Tire Centre. The league’s best team owns an outstanding record of 59-15-4 and 122 points. 19 points separate Tampa from two teams tied for second, which are the Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins. The Sens are 1-1-1 against the Bolts this season.
Cover Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Billy Morrison lives in Ottawa and covers the Ottawa Senators for Full Press Coverage. Follow Billy on Twitter, @BillyMorrison01.