TORONTO (AP)—The Maple Leafs withstood an early pounding from the Ottawa Senators and then pulled out a late victory.
Alexei Ponikarovsky’s go-ahead goal midway through the third period lifted Toronto to a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
The Senators, desperately trying to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, came out in a foul mood and went at every Maple Leafs player they could find.
Toronto, backed by strong goaltending from Vesa Toskala, were able to stand up to the challenge, and eventually took control.
“We tried to answer hit-for-hit—they were hitting a lot,” Ponikarovsky said. “We tried to do the same thing, mirror them, don’t give them any opportunity that they can throw us around. We showed that.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the third period, Pavel Kubina came out of the penalty box after and scooped up a loose puck just inside the Senators blue line. He skated deep into the zone and sent a pass back to Ponikarovsky, who sent a wrist shot past Martin Gerber’s stick side at 10:03.
“I thought they played with a good competitive edge,” Moore said. “I guess it was just our night.”
Daniel Alfredsson had the goal for the Senators, who failed to build momentum following their 3-2 victory Tuesday at Edmonton that ended a 12-game road winless streak. They have just three wins in 12 games overall.
“A very tough loss for us,” Alfredsson said. “We started the game really good, created a lot of chances. Toskala played outstanding tonight, we should’ve had four or five goals.
“He keeps them in the game, they get a couple of chances and score.”
The physical, hard-fought affair brought back memories of the bitter games the teams played in years past on Canadian Forces Appreciation Night.
The animosity began on the first shift when Jason Spezza got his hands in Moore’s face on a hit in the boards and later speared his opponent, earning a penalty.
Alfredsson opened the scoring in the first period seconds after a two-man advantage expired, taking a pretty pass from Spezza and scoring puck past Vesa Toskala from a sharp angle at 7:05.
Moore tied it midway through the second period, when he got to a puck that squirted free from the corner between two Senators in front of the goal and whipped a backhander past Gerber.
“I don’t think we were playing badly to that point but our team thrives on momentum and confidence,” Moore said. “So getting that first goal and getting our feet under us was good.”
Blake had a goal disallowed on another power play five minutes later, clearly kicking the puck in.
Toskala, in goal for the Leafs after back-to-back starts for Curtis Joseph, made his best stop of the night soon after, stopping Fisher on a partial break after Jon Mitchell’s giveaway.
He finished with 30 saves.
Gerber made his third straight start for the Senators and was solid in stopping 27 shots.
“Every time they had a bounce their way, they capitalized on it,” he said. “Overall, we played a hard game, we just couldn’t get the puck into the net.”
Over 450 military personnel and their families took in the game courtesy of the Maple Leafs. Messages from soldiers serving in Afghanistan were shown on the videoboard during stoppages in play. … The Leafs also paid tribute to Don Sanderson of the Whitby Dunlops, who died Friday three weeks after hitting his head on the ice during a fight. … Still remaining for the Senators on their eight-game road trip are stops in New Jersey on Sunday, Buffalo on Tuesday and Boston on Thursday. … The Leafs called up Kris Newbury to skate on the fourth line. Forwards Matt Stajan (eye), Andre Deveaux (foot) and Jeremy Williams (shoulder) were all scratched.