Let's face it: this game wasn't going to mean much in the grand scheme of things. The "Battle of Ontario" resembles more of a Sunday skate rather than a battle. However, it's a Senators/Leafs matchup, and there will always be plenty of people watching. Coming into the game, Ottawa knew they needed a better effort after a terrible performance in Florida.
Just 5:40 into the game, the Senators would predictably take the lead. Mika Zibanejad picked up the puck in the neutral zone with a head of steam and he ended up on a partial break in the Leafs zone. It looked like he was going to blast a slap-shot top corner, but instead he faked it, got Garret Sparks to bite and he slid it along the ice through the five-hole. It was quite pretty:
Zibanejad goal pic.twitter.com/PW5hMC1bRc— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 13, 2016
There ended up being three penalties for the Senators and two for the Leafs in the period, but it didn't amount to many chances for either team---in fact, the best chance came on a Toronto power play when Alex Chiasson couldn't finish an opportunity when he was all alone at the side of the net. That power play was the result of an unbelievably weak tripping call on Zack Smith which was drawn by...Nazem Kadri of course. After one period, it was 1-0 Ottawa with the shots tied up at 7-7. Despite the even shot totals, it was clear that the Senators were controlling the play.
Just 19 seconds into the second period Ottawa doubled their lead. Mark Stone won the battle on the half-wall in Toronto's zone, and he was able to pick out a streaking Cody Ceci in the slot. Ceci dragged it to his back-hand then beat an outstretched Sparks to giving him his 20th point of the season. Not even halfway through the game and Ottawa already had two pretty goals.
GIF: Ceci's 8th goal of the season makes it 2-0. pic.twitter.com/mURH58nz7o— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 13, 2016
The rest of the period was the opposite of old renditions of the Battle of Ontario. Although the shot attempts were 25-9 in all situations for the Leafs in the second period, it never seemed like Ottawa was in much trouble. I was expecting to see that the attempts were at least 50-50 for the period, but it wasn't even close. That just shows that the quality of chances Toronto had were not very good.
The Leafs had the only two power plays of the period, but with two combined shots, it was almost a non-existent man advantage. Heading into the third period, Ottawa was looking good.
Then early on in the third period, Ottawa basically put the game to bed. I don't know what Zack Smith is doing for his pre-game ritual these days, but he just cannot stop scoring. And while we can recognize that he isn't going to be a 21-goal scorer next year, we can still marvel at how well he has played this year. After taking a shot from the high slot, there was a scramble in front of Sparks, and Smith was able to get to his own rebound with lots of time and space to give him another easy goal.
The Leafs continued to pile on the shots, but they still never looked like they were in the game. That was expected though, considering their team resembles the Marlies rather than the Leafs.
Later in the period, Mark Stone would put the game away for good. He intercepted a pass in mid-air right at Toronto's blueline, and came down on a 2-on-1 with Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Pageau's one time attempt was fanned on, but luckily the puck deflected right back to Stone where he had a wide open net. It was Stone's third point of the night.
This was a much easier contest than last weeks affair against Toronto, but it ended with the same result nonetheless. It's always great to beat the Leafs, even though wins aren't exactly what Ottawa needs right now. The aggregate score for the Senators/Leafs series this year was 18-7, but it's just too bad that this is a year where it does not matter too much.
Sens Hero: Mark Stone
Like I said yesterday, Stone is just amazing. He had three points tonight, and is now on pace for 67 points. How good is that you ask?
Mark Stone hopped into a tie for 19th in the league with 3 points tonight.— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) March 13, 2016
That's right, he's in the top-20. His goal in which he batted the puck out of mid-air seemed so natural for him, when really, that's a hard thing to do. I can't praise him enough.
Honourable Mention: Zack Smith
We have to acknowledge how good he has been, even if we know that it won't last into next year. He now has a 5-game goal streak, and an 8-game point streak. Where was this guy last year? I just really hope that his play isn't used as an excuse to not improve the forwards. Keeping him in the bottom six (while acquiring someone else) would give the team better depth. No matter how Ottawa intends on using him though, he's been dynamite of late.
Honourable Mention: Mika Zibanejad
His opening goal was absolutely slick. It's nice to see him use some skill like that every so often. He now has 41 points, and is on pace for 48 points, but I think he can be even better at his peak.
Honourable Mention: Craig Anderson
It never felt like he was tested too much, but he stopped every single puck that came his way and he deserves recognition. 29/29 is a good night for the netminder after the horrible 6-2 game against Florida.
ESPN Shot Chart: