With a victory or tie Saturday, the Senators will win the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy and have home ice throughout the postseason. Ottawa has already secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but is unsure of its first-round opponent.
“It’s a credit to our consistency all year,” coach Jacques Martin said. “I give the credit to our players and the depth. I think that it is important in the playoffs in that it is nice to have that seventh game at home. We have worked hard all year and it’s kind of nice to achieve that.”
Patrick Lalime stopped 28 shots and is playing well at the most important point of the season. He has yielded only 10 goals in his last six games.
Jason Spezza added three assists for Ottawa, which has set franchise records this season with 51 wins and 111 points.
Thursday’s victory was the Senators’ fifth straight on the road and 23rd this season, establishing a team record. Ottawa had 22 road wins in 1998-99 and 2000-01.
Toronto will finish fifth in the East and is headed for a first-round matchup with New Jersey or Philadelphia.
The Leafs also are playing well at an opportune time, winning four straight and losing just once in regulation in 13 games (7-1-3-2).
The news, however, was not all good for the Leafs, who will be without captain Mats Sundin on Saturday. Sundin, the team leader with 37 goals, was hit in the mouth by a puck on a clearing attempt by teammate Ric Jackman in the first period.
“He’s going to miss the next little while, certainly Saturday. We’ll have to stay on top of the swelling and his ability to put sustenance in his system,” coach Pat Quinn said.
Sundin’s injury comes at a terrible time for the Leafs, already missing forwards Gary Roberts, Doug Gilmour, Tom Fitzgerald, Shayne Corson and Travis Green, and defensemen Phil Housley and Glen Wesley because of injuries.
Ed Belfour made 21 saves Thursday for his team-record 37th win of the season. He has allowed three goals or fewer in 11 consecutive games.
STANDINGS: Senators - 111 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Maple Leafs - 98 points, 2nd place, 13 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Marian Hossa, 45 goals; Alfredsson, 51 assists; Hossa and Alfredsson, 78 points; Chris Neil, 145 PIM. Maple Leafs - Sundin, 37 goals; Alexander Mogilny, 46 assists and 79 points; Wade Belak, 194 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through April 3): Senators - Power play: 21.2 percent (82 for 387), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (280 for 330), 10th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 17.6 percent (63 for 357), 11th. Penalty killing: 87.0 percent (367 for 422), 3rd.
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 3-1.
LAST MEETING: March 4; Senators, 4-1. At Ottawa, Radek Bonk, Mike Fisher, Karel Rachunek and Wade Redden scored power-play goals as the Senators took advantage of Toronto’s lack of discipline in a fight-filled victory.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 23-12-5-0 on the road; Maple Leafs - 24-12-4-0 at home.