Senators hold on to win 3-2 over Leafs

That was a lot closer than it had to be, but the bottom line is that the Ottawa Senators came away with both points in an intra-divisional game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The win was largely on the back of Mike Fisher, who scored two goals, Alex Kovalev, who assisted on both of them, and Pascal Leclaire, who was big when he needed to be.

Ottawa was outshot on the night by a count of 32-21, including being outshot 15-4 in the third period--but that final frame was Leclaire's best of the game. He was routinely outside the crease challenging shooters, and--although it was terrifying for spectators--he didn't give up too many rebound in the third. The Sens gave Vesa Toskala a bit of a break, not only in terms of few shots on net, but also leaving a whole whack of rebounds and loose pucks in the slot without being fast enough to get on them.

Offensively, the Senators needed a spark--and it came from Fisher and Kovalev. His first goal was a matter of Fisher following up on the play, finding a puck and throwing it past Toskala. Second--the game winner--was a good heads-up play by Chris Campoli and a slick cross-ice pass from Kovalev to set up Fisher with all sorts of time to find the net behind Toskala.

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One thing the Senators can't complain about tonight was the refereeing. Ottawa had four powerplays tonight while Toronto only had one, and got little in the way of offence out of those four opportunities--despite the fact that the Leafs have the league's worst penalty killing. Although Milan Michalek did score a PP goal (after tipping in a great, and most of all, simple shot from Alex Picard), that was one of only two shots the Senators had with the man advantage. I can't say I know what is wrong with the Senators' powerplay, whether it's too predictable, or whether players are too hesitant to put the puck to the net, or whether players try and shoot through blocked shooting lanes (see: Daniel Alfredsson, who had another five shots blocked tonight), but considering how few and far between PP opportunities have been, it'd be a good idea to take advantage when we get them.

Something that was impressive was the play of Ottawa's fourth line tonight, particularly in the first period. Shean Donovan had two hits, a shot on net, and hit the post early in the first--had his shot gone in, it would have put the Leafs down much earlier in the game, and may have sparked the Senators' true offensive guns to get going. Jarkko Ruutu had a decent fight against John Mitchell--for which Mitchell took an extra two minutes for instigating--and had two shots and a team-high four hits. Centres Chris Kelly and Jesse Winchester shared time on the fourth line, but both played pretty well--Kelly made a nice pass to Fisher in the first on a two-on-one, and had three hits, while Winchester handled Jeff Finger in a first-period fight and had a couple of solid hits. Chris Neil was strong, too, with three good hits--including a big one on Luke Schenn that started a brawl between the two--and a couple of shots, too. Long story short, the role players were strong, but forwards like Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson couldn't get their games going. Fortunately, the newfound offensive depth of a reborn Fisher plus Kovalev--who'll show up here and there--and Michalek gave Ottawa the decision.

And hey, anyone who didn't think there was much to the Battle of Ontario anymore should have tuned in for the first period. Although the physicality toned down as the game went on, three fights in the first and a fourth in the second demonstrated a fair bit of hostility between the two teams. Hard to say whether or not it will continue because of the roster turnover both teams have been going through (and will likely continue to go through), but we'll see what happens next game--especially if the score gets out of hand.

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