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Battle of Ontario: Sens Fall to the Leafs in the Shootout

The 'Battle of Ontario' was rejoined tonight as the Maple Leafs played their home opener against the Ottawa Senators. As they have since 1931, the 48th Highlanders opened the season for the Leafs - but the team chose to come out to the stylings of Metallica, instead:

 

While some things may stay the same, at least one thing would change. For the first time in 18 years, the inter-Provincial rivalry will not include Daniel Alfredsson. It made for much less booing, but no less scoring.

One of the first questions for the Leafs, as it's likely to be for most of the season, was which goaltender was going to get the start. Jonathan Bernier had a very strong game in Philadelphia, but it was James Reimer who got the first start in front of the home crowd – having finished last year as Toronto's starter, and boasted a 3-0 record against the Senators in the lockout shortened season. Ottawa may have had a goaltending question to answer as well, playing on back to back nights, but Craig Anderson's shutout performance in the Sens win in Buffalo would have made it very difficult to go a different way. In the end, though, neither of these decisions would look particularly wise.

Another storyline for the Leafs was the NHL debut of 3 players. With David Clarkson suspended, and Mark Fraser and Nicolai Kulemin injured, the Leafs called upon top prospect Morgan Reilly, tough guy Jamie Devane and forward Spencer Abbot to fill their roster holes.

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle went power on power matching Phil Kessel's line against Jason Spezza's for Ottawa – but the story of the first period was the secondary scoring. First Mason Raymond put the Leafs up by one when he became the first to beat Craig Anderson this season. Then Ottawa's second line struck twice – first with Turris beating Reimer on a feed from Jared Cowen, and then Cory Conacher captalizing on a scramble in front of the net with Turris picking up the first assist. The Leafs got a late period powerplay, which turned into a 5 on 3 after Zack Smith took an ill advised slashing call on a shorthanded 2 on 1. Just as the first penalty expired, it was Raymond again feeding it to Kadri to tie the game.

Just after the mid point of the second, Turris returned the favour to Jared Cowen who made it 3-2. Spezza struck on a bullet shot 15 seconds later to make it 4-2 for the Sens – and that was enough to end the night for James Reimer. Bernier came into the net and the tide began to turn back in favour of the Leafs – after a few big saves by Bernier, the Leafs Joffrey Lupul scored a late powerplay goal to cut the Sens lead to 1 heading into the third.

A few minutes into the final frame, James van Reimsdyk drew the Leafs even on a shot that Craig Anderson probably wishes he had back. Bernier continued his perfect play as the teams headed to overtime – which solved nothing, despite a few controversial decisions by the referees. First, the ACC crowd was aghast when the Sens Patrick Wiercioch hauled down Phil Kessel when he appeared to be loose in front of the Senators net and it went uncalled. A short while after, Cowen hooked Dave Bolland when he went in on a breakaway with 46 seconds left – but was assessed a minor instead of the penalty shot the fans wanted. The replay showed that Bolland may have embellished when he fell, which might have contributed to the referees decision.

The Leafs failed to capitalize on their late powerplay, but it wouldn't matter. Mason Raymond scored on the first shootout attempt when he made a full stop, reversed and spun it into the net past Anderson. The goal was allowed despite the reverse momentum. Milan Michalek beat Bernier, but not the crossbar. Tyler Bozak beat Anderson when he made him bite on a stutter step and put it five hole. Jason Spezza had to score, but couldn't beat Bernier.

Bernier was named first star in the building after earning the win in relief of Reimer, and likely the inside track on the Leafs starting job going forward. At the other end, Anderson was average at best after his heroics the night before. It was also an extremely forgettable night for Erik Karlsson, fresh of his game winner in Buffalo, who failed to get anything going and finishing the game pointless. Off season acquisition Bobby Ryan will probably be facing questions as well, having been largely silent over the first two games. Meanwhile, the guy he was traded for has two goals in as many games for th Ducks.

Of note is the fact that despite both teams having a number of tough guys dressed, this game was quite silent on the facepunching front. Zack Smith and Dion Phaneuf got into it a little as the Second period ended for offsetting roughing minors, but there was little else. Overall, the penalties heavily favoured the Leafs who had 6 powerplays including the brief 5 on 3 that lead to the second goal. The Sens, by contrast had their only powerplay interrupted when Karlsson was called for a trip on the powerplay (eventually leading to the aforementioned 5 on 3). The Sens got a total of 1:24 on the powerplay in the game.

Video from NHL.com:

 
 

Update (11:04): Jonathan Bernier discusses the Leafs shootout win:

 

 
Upadated 11:19: Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris discuss the loss:
 

Turris:

 

Sens Coach Paul MacLean:

 

 

Filed in: NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: battle+of+ontario, cory+conacher, craig+anderson, daniel+alfredsson, dave+bolland, erik+karlsson, james+reimer, jamie+devane, jared+cowen, jason+spezza, joffrey+lupul, jonathan+bernier, kyle+turris, mason+raymond, morgan+reilly, nazem+kadri, patrick+wiercioch, phil+kessel, randy+carlyle

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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