With the burden of an extended losing streak behind them, the Toronto Maple Leafs can shift their focus solely on their improvement moving forward.
Toronto seeks a fifth consecutive victory over the host Ottawa Senators when the rivals meet Saturday night.
The Maple Leafs (15-11-3) were mired in a five-game skid before Trevor Smith scored in overtime to beat Dallas 3-2 on Thursday. Nazem Kadri scored twice and Jonathan Bernier made 48 saves for his first win since Nov. 19.
Toronto was outshot for the 10th straight game.
''We had to break it,'' Smith said. ''We haven't been playing well, and I don't think we put together 60 minutes at all (Thursday). But with Bernier playing over his head for us and giving us a chance to win, that's all we can ask for.''
Coach Randy Carlyle hopes the victory can help the Leafs get mentally prepared for a tough upcoming stretch. After Saturday's contest, they'll face Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh in succession.
''Hopefully they feel good and we can flush what's been going on,'' Carlyle said. ''We just think that it's time for this group to take a deep breath and go to work and get ourselves ready for Saturday.''
Toronto has won seven of the last eight meetings with Ottawa, and Kadri has been a big reason for the recent success in the series. The forward has scored in four straight meetings - including his second career hat trick March 30 - and has totaled six goals and two assists during that stretch.
Kadri had a goal and assist while Bernier stopped all 15 shots he faced in more than 30 minutes of relief of James Reimer in a 5-4 shootout win over the Senators on Oct. 5.
It's unclear if Bernier will be in net for this matchup, but Kadri would be more than supportive if he gets the nod.
''I'm not that impressed anymore because (Bernier has played well) night in and night out,'' Kadri said. "He's been a great contributor to this team. Our goalie needs to make a couple big saves for us to get the win, and that's exactly what happened (Thursday).''
Toronto has won four of the last five road meetings with Ottawa, which has dropped seven of 10 after Thursday's 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay. Patrick Wiercioch scored the team's only goal.
''We're just finding ways to lose,'' Wiercioch said. ''We know we can be a better team and be more consistent, and we haven't proven that yet.''
Captain Jason Spezza expressed similar thoughts about the Senators (11-14-4), who have lost four straight at home.
''We were just not good enough,'' said Spezza, who has just one goal over his last 10. ''I think we were playing too cautious, and in turn I don't think we played with enough confidence. When you play cautious like that and don't play with enough confidence, that's why we're losing games.
"We have to be a more-attacking team. We have to believe in ourselves more than we do.''
Robin Lehner made 19 saves Thursday, though Craig Anderson could be back in net for this contest. Anderson allowed four goals in four straight starts before stopping 30 shots in Tuesday's 4-2 win over Florida.
He made 38 saves in the last meeting with Toronto, dropping to 0-3-1 with a 3.68 goals-against average over his last four against the Leafs.
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- Ice Hockey
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Ottawa Senators
- Jonathan Bernier
- Nazem Kadri