OTTAWA – After losing their previous three shootout appearances the Ottawa Senators finally found a way to take that second point.
Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson scored in the shootout Thursday as the Senators defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1. “We had been looking for a shootout win,” admitted Spezza. “Maybe this is the start of a bit of a streak.”
Spezza scored the first shot of the shootout while Alfredsson added the insurance after Dany Heatley failed on his attempt. Neither Nikolai Kulemin nor Lee Stempniak were able to beat Alex Auld.
“Good for all of us (to win the shootout),” said Auld. “Those are big points and when it comes down to it you’ve got to find a way to get the win.”
Auld, making his seventh straight start, was solid for the Senators making 25 saves. Mike Fisher, making his return after missing the last two games with a knee injury, also scored for Ottawa (8-9-4).
Kulemin scored the only goal for the Leafs (7-10-5), who are now mired in a five-game losing streak. Vesa Toskala was most impressive stopping 34 shots in front of a divided 19,703 at Scotiabank Place.
Toskala was the difference in the game as he made a number of key saves in the third period.
“That was by far Vesa’s best game,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “Concentrating, moving, focused and obviously making saves. They’ve got some great offensive players and he was ready for the task.”
Billed as the Battle of Ontario, these two teams are both fighting to stay out of the Northeast Division basement. With 20 points, the Senators are just one point ahead of the last-place Leafs.
The Senators opened the scoring as Fisher scored his third of the season. Fisher was looking to pass to Shean Donovan, but the puck bounced in off Tomas Kaberle.
“It’s always nice to come back and contribute a little bit,” said Fisher. “We stayed patient and stuck with it. It’s been tough going and getting wins so it’s always nice to do that. We’ve got to keep rolling and try and get on a roll and put something together.”
The Leafs didn’t take long to respond, scoring 59 seconds later as Kulemin was left all alone driving to the net.
After a fast-paced, energetic first period things slowed down in the second. Both teams had a couple chances, but both goaltenders were solid.
Heatley was clearly frustrated midway through the period as he slammed his stick against the boards after Toskala made a great glove save.
The third period got off to a quick start as both teams displayed a greater sense of urgency, and both goaltenders made a number of dazzling saves.
“Toskala was great in the third,” said Alfredsson. “He made a couple of great saves and he got them the point.”
Despite the loss, Toskala felt good about the game but still sees room for improvement.
“I think we have to be happy with the point,” said Toskala. “I think we still have lots of work to do defensively.”
The Leafs had a great chance to take the lead late in the third after Jarkko Ruutu took a minor penalty, but were unable to score on the ensuing power play finishing the game 0-for-4 with the man advantage. The Senators, meanwhile, were 0-for-1 with the extra man.
While Wilson was pleased with his team’s overall play he did find they lacked some energy late in the game.
“A few of the key people looked a little tired,” said Wilson. “We’ll back off (Friday) and make practice optional because we’ve got a really tough schedule coming.”
The Leafs coach also showed enthusiasm when asked about Thursday’s news regarding Brian Burke’s impending arrival as Toronto’s new president and GM.
“I am really excited that Brian is able to get this straightened out, if it is true,” he said.
Burke, Wilson’s college roommate at Providence, will replace Cliff Fletcher, hired as interim general manager following John Ferguson’s firing in January.
“He’s done a great job setting the table for Burkie. An unbelievable job,” Wilson said.
Donovan left the game early in the third with an undisclosed upper body injury and will be re-evaluated Friday.
The Senators will take on the New York Islanders Saturday night, while the Leafs will host the Philadelphia Flyers.
Notes: Ottawa placed D Luke Richardson on waivers. …The Senators were without RW Chris Neil (right leg) and RW Ryan Shannon (concussion), LW Dean McAmmond (flu). …The Leafs were without LW Jason Blake (concussion). …RW Andre Deveaux made his NHL debut for Toronto.