Fisher scored his first goal of the season and linemates Antoine Vermette and Chris Neil also found the back of the net as the trio led the Ottawa Senators to their second straight win, 6-2 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. After managing a meagre 1.8 goals a game in losing four of their first six, the Senators have turned their offence around. They beat the New Jersey Devils 8-1 on Saturday, and now this.
“We’ve got to play with passion, with an edge, and we seem to be doing that more in the last couple of games,” said Fisher. “We’re feeding off each other.
“We’re finally finding the net and getting confidence.”
Andrej Meszaros, Patrick Eaves and Dany Heatley also scored for Ottawa, and Martin Gerber made 37 saves.
“Some of our better players are playing better,” said coach Bryan Murray. “Whether that’s a sign we’ve turned the corner, I don’t know.”
Going with three lines instead of the usual four the last two games helped.
Matt Stajan and Mats Sundin replied for the Leafs, who made too many defensive errors and trailed 3-0 after one period and 5-1 after two. Andrew Raycroft allowed five goals on 21 shots through two periods. Jean-Sebastien Aubin played the third and stopped 10 of 11.
“We didn’t have the jump we had in previous games and, when you’re playing a good team like that, that’s what happens – you’re down three goals in a hurry,” said Sundin. “They’re a team that, if you fall behind, they’re tough to play against.
“We knew we needed to have a good start against them, and we didn’t.”
The teams meet again Thursday night in Ottawa (TV, 7:30 p.m. ET) and Sens fans won’t be blowing kisses at Darcy Tucker for beating up Eaves, who wears a visor and had never dropped the gloves before in an NHL game. There might be more than boos headed Tucker’s way.
“The next game will be intense, which is good,” said Ottawa tough guy Brian McGrattan.
Fisher finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Tom Preissing in opening the scoring at 2:42. Tomas Kaberle had been caught up ice.
Meszaros connected with a blue-line blast through a screen at 14:47. The play developed after Ian White failed in an attempt to shoot the puck out of the Leafs’ zone.
“We did a good job backchecking and forcing them to turn the puck over,” Ottawa centre Jason Spezza said afterwards.
Eaves scored on a power play at 19:46. Heatley sent the puck towards the crease where Eaves and Hal Gill were jousting. Eaves gained possession, whirled around and slid the puck past Raycroft. Ben Ondrus was off for roughing.
Vermette scored on another power play at 3:21 of the second. Fisher sent a cross-ice pass that Vermette, being ineffectively checked by Bryan McCabe, reached for to redirect in. Tucker was off for roughing. He’d pushed Joe Corvo into the end boards from behind.
Ottawa entered the game last in the 30-team league in power play efficiency (5.4 per cent) with only two goals in 37 chances, so getting two in a road was a real boost.
Heatley made it 5-0 four minutes later. Prancing around the front of the crease, he was treated by would-be Leafs checkers as if he had a contagious disease. Spezza popped the puck out front from the side, and Heatley backhanded it past the beleaguered Raycroft.
Leafs fans in the announced crowd of 19,485 finally had something to cheer about when Stajan tapped in a rebound at 8:10. Gerber was out of position after flopping to the ice.
Tucker then pummelled Eaves, who didn’t want to fight. Tucker insisted, and sent Eaves tumbling to the ice after repeatedly throwing fists at his head.
Every player on the Ottawa bench was standing out of concern for Eaves. McGrattan stood in the penalty box – he’d fought Wade Belak – to berate Tucker as he arrived. Tucker replied with a few choice words of his own.
On Tucker’s next shift, Heatley knocked him down from behind and was sent off for roughing.
Sundin made it 5-2 early in the period with a shot wrist shot from near the boards beyond the top of the circle to Gerber’s right that Gerber should have stopped.
Neil deflected in a long Meszaros shot to cap the scoring.
“They took it to us for a while but we regrouped pretty good in the third,” said Spezza.
Tucker was still on the Senators’ minds, and Fisher took a roughing penalty for going after him with 11 minutes left.
“It didn’t get too out of control,” said McGrattan. “I thought (the fights) were good for the fans. It’s always good.”
The Leafs could do nothing with manpower advantages all night and finished 0-for-6. Ottawa was 2-for-5. The Senators’ special teams superiority was a big factor in the outcome – that and their rediscovered knack for scoring goals.
“We kind of owed them one after they embarrassed us (6-0) in our home opener,” said Spezza.
The teams have met six times already counting pre-season games, and Thursday will be the seventh skirmish in the Battle of Ontario.
“There’s obviously going to be a little animosity,” said Spezza. “There’s no love lost, definitely.”
Notes: C John Pohl lives in a waterfront condo with Krissy Wendell, who was captain of the U.S. women’s hockey team at the Turin Olympics. She’s playing for the Etobicoke Dolphins of the National Women’s Hockey League . . . Agent Carlos Sosa has wasted no time trying to capitalize on the fact Tucker leads Toronto in goals scored. Sosa breezed into town to talk contract with GM John Ferguson and was all over TV and radio extolling Tucker’s virtues. Tucker is earning US$1.6 million this season. He can become an unrestricted free agent next July 1. A long-term deal worth at least US$2.5 million a year would be the goal . . . The Leafs and Cineplex Entertainment announced that seven games scheduled for Leafs TV cable only also will be shown live at 25 theatres in the Toronto-Hamilton region as well as in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, Niagara Falls, Barrie, Owen Sound, London, Waterloo, Brantford and Peterborough. First game on the big screen will be Toronto-Florida on Nov. 2. The adult ticket price will be $10.95 plus taxes . . . F Jiri Tlusty, Toronto’s first pick and 13th overall in the 2006 entry draft, has been sent to the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Tlusty began his season with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and had three goals and one assist. His first game with the Hounds might be Thursday in Peterborough.