After a strong showing in their season opener, the Senators aim to continue their recent dominance of the Maple Leafs as the provincial rivals conclude a home-and-home series at Scotiabank Place on Thursday.
Ottawa is facing some uncertainty this season after losing defenseman Zdeno Chara to free agency and left wing Martin Havlat to a trade in the offseason. The Senators, though, got a solid performance from their top offseason acquisition in a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Wednesday.
Martin Gerber, signed to a three-year contract to replace future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek, made 33 saves as Ottawa beat Toronto for the eight time in nine games. The Maple Leafs have been outscored 44-20 in that stretch.
Ottawa’s Bryan Murray coached Gerber in Anaheim and lobbied Senators general manager John Muckler to acquire him.
“John knew I liked this guy. He did a heck of a job of staying on top of it until we got it done,” Murray said.
Toronto had a few good chances early but couldn’t score on Gerber, who won 38 games for Stanley Cup champion Carolina last season before losing his starting job to rookie and eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward.
“You want to do well with your new team,” Gerber said. Expectations are high.”
Last season, Ottawa topped 100 points for the fifth time in seven years. The Senators also won the Northeast Division title for the fourth time in that span, but again failed to win the Eastern Conference, losing in the semifinals to Buffalo.
Patrick Eaves, Chris Neil, Cristoph Schubert and Daniel Alfredsson scored for the Senators. Alfredsson and Dany Heatley set a franchise record with 103 points each last season. Eaves, who had 20 goals as a rookie, is expected to help make up for Havlat’s departure.
Defenseman Tom Preissing, making his Ottawa debut, didn’t return for the third period because of a lower body injury. His status for Thursday’s game is uncertain.
Mats Sundin scored on a penalty shot for the Maple Leafs, who haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967. Sundin, who is three goals shy of becoming the 35th player with 500 career tallies, has 19 goals and 52 points in 56 games versus Ottawa.
Sundin said he thought his team played better than the score suggests.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as the scoresheet says,” Sundin said.
Goaltender Andrew Raycroft, acquired from the Bruins in the offseason, finished with 32 saves in his Toronto debut.
“I felt good out there,” said Raycroft. “It wasn’t a terrible start but I wanted to get the win.”
He won 29 games en route to the 2004 Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, but fell out of favor during a post-lockout season after going 8-19-0 with a 3.71 goals-against average.
Wednesday’s loss was Toronto’s first under coach Paul Maurice, who replaced Pat Quinn in the offseason.
“Don’t underestimate what it’s like to open in Toronto,” he said. “It’s an exciting thing.”