Raycroft stopped 30 shots in regulation and four straight shootout attempts as the Maple Leafs earned a 3-2 win over the rival Ottawa Senators.
Raycroft has been excellent in goal since the all-star break as the Maple Leafs have built a four-game winning streak. His recent confidence has not been lost on his coach.
“He looks different,” said Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice. “Better even than at the start (of the season) when he was playing well.”
John Pohl scored the shootout winner in the fifth round. Mats Sundin also scored in the shootout for the Leafs.
But the real hero was Raycroft, who made four saves after allowing Ottawa’s first shooter, Antoine Vermette, to score. He capped the shootout with huge stops on Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, two of the NHL’s most dangerous players.
“I feel good, I feel confident,” said Raycroft. “I’m not fighting it. You can be a little more relaxed when you win a few in a row.”
The win allowed the Leafs (26-21-6) to remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. Toronto is tied for eighth in the conference with Carolina.
Jeff O’Neill and Sundin scored in regulation for the Leafs.
Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Comrie scored for the Senators (30-22-2) as Ray Emery faced 38 shots in a solid outing.
“That was good,” said Maurice. “It was a great game. It was exciting with good goaltending at both ends.”
Emery and Raycroft were both solid in a scoreless first period, stopping several good chances to the delight of the 20,112 at Scotiabank Place. Emery made a great save on Alexei Ponikarovsky at the eight-minute mark, while Raycroft looked stellar with a glove save on Mike Comrie late in the period.
Toronto outshot the Senators 18-8 in the second period and spent much of the period in the Senators zone.
The pressure paid off at the six-minute mark of the second as Matt Stajan found a wide open O’Neill, who beat Emery for his 18th goal of the season.
“They were the better team for two periods,” said Alfredsson. “Their forecheck was more effective than ours.”
Sundin made it 2-0 with just over five minutes remaining in the period with a shot to the left corner.
“The second period wasn’t very good for us,” said Ottawa’s Mike Fisher. “They kind of took over. The third was good and we got some big goals. We should be happy we came back and made a game of it.”
Alfredsson got his team on the board at 4:47 of the third period, when he was left all alone and beat Raycroft to the left side.
Ottawa appeared to tie the game 12 seconds later on a goal by Mike Fisher, but the puck never crossed the goal-line.
Comrie tied the game at 8:06 of the third taking a great pass from Joe Corvo. Raycroft appeared to have made the save, but the puck trickled through his legs over the goal-line.
“We’re not giving up ever, even when we’re down,” said Fisher. “We’re playing confident in the third period. These are the types of games you can gain confidence from.”
Senators coach Bryan Murray said he was satisfied with his team’s performance despite the loss.
“Give credit to Toronto, they’re playing good hockey,” said Murray. “I’m real happy with the way the guys have been performing lately.”
The single point proved to be huge for the Senators as they moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“It was fun playing those guys and having it that close,” said Emery. “Listening to the fans cheer on both teams was like a playoff atmosphere.”
Ottawa was 1-for-4 with the man advantage. The Leafs were 0-for-2.
The Senators still hold a 4-2 edge over the Leafs in the season series.
Notes: Ottawa’s RW Brian McGrattan and RW Denis Hamel were healthy scratches. The Leafs were without C Mike Peca (knee, season), C Boyd Devereaux (ankle, day-to-day), C Darcy Tucker (foot, indefinite), C Kyle Wellwood (sports hernia, indefinite), D Andy Wozniewski (shoulder, indefinite), D Brendan Bell was a healthy scratch.