Alfredsson a pain in neck

Maple Leafs’ John Mitchell celebrates scoring against the Ottawa Senators, with teammate Christian...

Maple Leafs’ John Mitchell celebrates scoring against the Ottawa Senators, with teammate Christian Hanson (left) as Senators’ Milan Michalek skates to the bench during Tuesday night's game. (REUTERS/Blair Gable)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

OTTAWA -- "Crack!"

That was the sickening sound Francois Beauchemin heard coming from his neck after having his head rammed into the unforgiving Scotiabank Place boards Tuesday night.

Facing the glass, Beauchemin was attempting to corral the puck when he suddenly was nailed from behind by normally mild-mannered Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson midway through the third period of the Maple Leafs' 4-1 victory.

As he lay splattered on the ice, Alfredsson skated over and asked the Leafs defenceman if he was okay.

"I said: 'What do you want me to do? The puck was at my feet and I was facing the wall,' " Beauchemin recounted.

"I heard a little crack in my neck. I'll get that fixed (Wednesday). I'm just lucky I wasn't hurt more.

"That's one of the hits we're trying to take out of the game. I thought it was pretty bad."

Alfredsson didn't.

"I just nudged him a bit," Alfredsson explained.

This was out of character for Alfredsson. He doesn't usually do things like this. As Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel was quick to point out: "(Alfredsson) is not a dirty player."

Having said that, this was more than just a nudge.

A nudge usually doesn't net you a two-minute boarding penalty.

A nudge usually doesn't cause the media to flock to you and ask you about what many perceived to be a controversial hit, especially with the head-shot and hits-from-behind issues rearing their ugly heads so much of late.

Despite being jeered by Leafs fans both in Toronto and in Ottawa, Alfredsson is one of the classiest people you'll meet in the National Hockey League.

Bitter Leafs supporters would disagree, pointing to an incident on May 10, 2002 when Alfredsson wallpapered Leafs bad boy Darcy Tucker against the Air Canada Centre boards before scoring the winning goal seconds later in Game 5 of that second-round playoff series.

Rightly or wrongly, those actions seemed to stem from Alfredsson's extreme desire to win.

Tuesday, his "nudge" on Beauchemin seemed to be more a reflection of frustration.

At his team's inability to score. At being outworked in the third period by the younger Leafs.

Most importantly, at suffering a fourth loss in a row to the hated Leafs, including two on home ice in an 11-day span.

Put it all together, and there can be no doubt that the once-fizzling Battle of Ontario has regained its sizzle, its flair, its hatred.

Once upon a time, when the Maple Leafs were booting the hated Senators out of the playoffs and on to the golf course on a regular basis earlier in the decade, players such as Luca Caputi, Luke Schenn and Kessel were still playing minor hockey.

Now the Battle of Ontario has become their fight, not just something they watch on the tube.

And, to this point, these young kids have welcomed the challenge instead of shying away from it.

With Kessel, John Mitchell, Mikael Grabovski and Rickard Wallin scoring, the Leafs received goals from each of their four lines, an indication of some fine balanced scoring.

Meanwhile, between the pipes, rookie Jonas Gustavsson collected his fourth consecutive victory, looking calm and composed in the process.

"It almost felt like a playoff game," Gustavsson said.

Almost.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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