Best of the Battle from eyes of veterans

MIKE ZEISBERGER, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:20 PM ET

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators were nauseous.

And not just at the outcome on the scoreboard, a 2-1 shootout win by the hated Maple Leafs.

When the Senators and Maple Leafs last butted heads in the Battle of Ontario on March 6 at Scotiabank Place, the flu-ravaged hosts had difficulty finding enough healthy bodies to fill their bench.

Of course, Senators tough guy Chris Neil was spry enough to knock the Leafs’ John Mitchell almost all the way to nearby Stittsville with a clean check.

And then there was Leafs tough guy Colton Orr who, after winning his third fight in four 2009-10 regular-season meetings against Sens enforcer Matt Carkner, skated off the ice holding up three fingers to the crowd, symbolizing each of his three pugilistic victories.

Indeed, there are juicy story­lines everywhere you look heading into the 78th regular-season game between these two teams, a matchup that takes place Tuesday here in the nation’s capital (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet).

Could it be the Battle of Ontario has regained a bit of its sizzle?

“Maybe a bit,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said Monday.

“But I don’t think it will ever be at the same level as it once was until we meet in the playoffs again, though.”

Alfredsson and teammate Chris Phillips are the only current Senators to have participated in all four post-season meetings between the Leafs and Sens dating back to the 2000 playoffs.

As for the Maple Leafs, defenceman Tomas Kaberle is the lone member of the team who has been around to experience of all these bitter provincial battles of the past decade.

Keeping that in mind, what are some of the Battle of Ontario’s most memorable moments?

That’s the question asked of both Alfredsson and Kaberle heading into Tuesday’s matchup.

Alfredsson's four moments

Flu bowl

(Feb. 5, 2004)

Seeing so many teammates under the weather against the Leafs earlier this month reminded Alfredsson of the game six years ago when his Sens blew a 4-0 lead en route to dropping a 5-4 decision.

“The flu game is one of the first things I remember about the Battle of Ontario,” Alfred­sson said Monday. “We had a big early lead, then ended up losing in overtime.

“I remember in the locker room, guys were running to the bathroom and throwing up.”

Informed that half the Sens roster was sick, Owen Nolan, who scored the game-winner for the Leafs, showed little remorse .

“Boo hoo,” Nolan said.

Domi bleeds

(May 12, 2002)

Up 3-2 in their first-round series, the Senators looked as if they were going to thrust the final dagger into the Maple Leafs, taking a 2-0 first period lead in Game 6.

It looked to be over for the Leafs. That is, until Sens defenceman Ricard Persson rammed Tie Domi from behind, slicing open the forehead of the Leaf enforcer.

Toronto tied the game on the ensuing five-minute power play before winning the game — and, subsequently, the series.

“I said it at the time — we would have won the series if Tie Domi had better balance,” Alfredsson said.

Phantom stick throw

(Jan. 8, 2004)

Already the favourite target of boos from the Air Canada Centre fans, Alfredsson playfully mocked Leafs captain Mats Sundin (who was suspended from the game for throwing a broken stick into the stands during an earlier game against Nashville) by pretending to throw his own broken stick into the crowd.

“People made a big deal of it but I was just having some fun,” Alfredsson said.

“Mats knew that. We talked about it.”

Enraged Leafs fans just could not see the humour in it.

Decking Darcy

(May 10, 2002)

Locked up at 2-2 in games during their second-round series, the Sens and Leafs were tied 2-2 late in Game 5 when Alfredsson wallpapered Leafs bad boy Darcy Tucker into the ACC boards, causing a turnover. Several seconds later, it was Alfredsson himself who scored the winner.

“Looking back, we didn’t end up winning that series,” he said. “So, really, that check didn’t matter so much.”

It did to the fans.

Kaberle's top four moments

Roberts to the rescue

(May 4, 2002)

The Leafs and Curtis Joseph were in trouble.

They had dropped the opener in their second round series 5-0 on home ice, resulting in the controversial Toronto Sun headline “Joe Sieve?”

Now, in Game 2, the game was tied 2-2 after regulation. After one overtime period. After two overtime periods.

Finally Roberts scored the winner in the third overtime, giving the Leafs a 2-1 win and evening up the series.

“We had so many injuries,” Kaberle said. “But Gary was one of our leaders and showed us why.”

Aye Aye Captain

(April 13, 2001)

For 60 minutes, the goalies ruled in the opener of the 2001 first-round series.

Neither team, in fact, could score until Mats Sundin stepped in, notching the winner in overtime.

“Mats had some big goals in his career, and that was one of them,” Kaberle said.

“And Cujo was outstanding.”

Joseph would allow just three goals in Toronto’s four-game sweep.

Bryan’s Song

(March 11, 2000)

When Marian Hossa’s stick accidentally clipped Bryan Berard’s eye, the young defenceman’s vision never would be the same.

Leaving pools of blood on the ice, Berard was rushed to an Ottawa-area hospital. Fortunately doctors opted not to extract the eye, allowing Berard to return to the NHL several years later.

“Brian was my roommate,” Kaberle said. “It was awful.

“I remember we flew back to Toronto after the game. The next day Mats and I were among a handful of guys who flew back to Ottawa to see Bryan.”

Joe jolts Ottawa

(April 20, 2004)

Sens owner Eugene Melnyk blew his top following his team’s post-season elimination at the hands of the Leafs for the fourth time in five seasons.

This was their best shot. With the first round series tied 3-3, Game 7 was up for grabs at the Air Canada Centre.

Then Joe Nieuwendyk scored a couple of easy goals and the Sens could not recover.

“Joe came up huge for us,” Kaberle said of the Leafs’ 4-1 win, the last game goalie Patrick Lalime would ever play for Ottawa.

It would be the last playoff game to date between the Sens and Leafs.

For the record, there won’t be one this spring, either.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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