OTTAWA – Mikhail Grabovski didn’t figure on the scoresheet for Toronto in its victory over the rival Senators, but for many of his teammates he was the hero in the penalty-filled game.
Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist and James Reimer made 29 saves to help the Maple Leafs in a 3-1 win over Ottawa on Saturday night.
Grabovski, the Leafs third leading scorer, earned his teammates’admiration for dropping the gloves against the Senators’ Chris Neil, a veteran fighter. The fight was one of many on the night, but definitely took centre stage.
“I think the guys were fired up to say the least,”said Toronto defenceman Mike Komisarek.“He did pretty well for himself to step in there and stand up for a teammate. That’s what we’re all about and I think every single guy went up to (Grabovski) at the end of the second to give him a pat on the back.”
Komisarek also made sure his team used the incident as motivation and told the team that“if that doesn’t get you fired up, nothing will.”
“We’ve talked about playing with heart and intensity at this time year and everyone knows how difficult it’s been the last couple of weeks,”said Komisarek.“We can build some momentum here and build off the positives.”
Reimer, who is now a perfect 4-0 at Scotiabank Place, admitted he’s not quite sure what it is about the building, but he definitely enjoys playing in Ottawa.
“It’s been good that’s for sure,”said Reimer.“It’s a fun atmosphere to play in and maybe as a team we get up for it.”
Tim Connolly and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Toronto (32-32-8), who has now won back-to-back games after a long slump that saw them go winless in 15 of their last 17 games.
Colin Greening scored the lone goal for the Senators (37-26-10), while Ben Bishop, making his sixth straight start, faced 18 shots in his first loss in regulation.
The Senators, who beat the Montreal Canadiens in overtime Friday night, started off strong, but just couldn’t seem to find a way to create any real momentum.
“We’re at that part of the season where everybody’s a little bit tired,”said Erik Karlsson.“We had a tough game yesterday and we didn’t really reach our top level (Saturday) either and it’s something we’re going to have to work on if we want to continue to be successful.”
The one area the Senators continue to struggle with is the man advantage. Ottawa is now 0-for-18 in its last five games.
In comparison the Leafs were 2-for-4 with the man advantage Saturday night.
It was two third period power-play goals that ultimately proved to be too much for the Senators.
“We got in penalty trouble and that’s the difference in the game,”said Daniel Alfredsson.“We weren’t as opportunistic on our chances to give us that lead. We got too many penalties in the end and that didn’t give us a chance to come back in the game.”
The Leafs took a 2-0 lead on Kessel’s power-play goal just 53 seconds into the third as he beat a screened Bishop from the top of the slot.
The Senators thought they had the cut lead in half on a Jason Spezza power-play goal just over two minutes later, but it was called back as it appeared Spezza had kicked it in.
The Leafs made it 3-0 midway through the third with their second power-play goal of the game as Phaneuf fired a shot from inside the right faceoff circle.
Greening broke Reimer’s shutout bid with just over one minute remaining as he tipped Filip Kuba’s shot.
The dislike between these two teams was evident early in the game as Sergei Gonchar and Clarke MacArthur fought midway through the first. This was Gonchar’s first fight since 1998 and just the second of his career.
The Leafs took a 1-0 lead at the seven-minute mark of the second as Karlsson’s clearing attempt from behind the net bounced in off Bishop’s skates. Connolly was given credit for the goal.
“It was just one of those unfortunate plays,”said Bishop.
The intensity of the game continued to rise in the second as Nick Foligno and Luke Schenn came to blows, followed by Neil and Grabovski during the same stoppage in play. Grabovski was given two game misconducts and a fighting major for the incident.
The win allowed the Leafs to split the season series with the Senators 3-3.
Notes: The Senators were without G Craig Anderson (finger, indefinitely), C Peter Regin (shoulder, out for season), C Jesse Winchester (concussion, indefinitely). D Matt Carkner, LW Kaspars Daugavins and C Zenon Konopka were a healthy scratch. The Leafs were without LW Joffrey Lupul (right shoulder, out indefinitely), LW Mike Brown (leg¸ out indefinitely) and RW Nikolai Kulemin (finger, out indefinitely). D Cody Franson was a healthy scratch…The second intermission featured a lesbian marriage proposal on the ice, a first at Scotiabank Place.