The nail was poised, the hammer was cocked in the final round of the Battle of Ontario, but the Senators couldn’t drive it home Saturday night at Scotiabank Place.
The Senators had a chance to help bury the Maple Leafs and their slim playoff chances. But a heroic comeback from a 2-0 deficit fell short as Ottawa dropped a 4-2 decision in front of a sellout crowd of 19,253.
While Jason Spezza tried to lead the attack with a two-goal effort, Tyler Bozak scored the third-period winner as Craig Anderson allowed four goals on 30 shots to keep the Leafs’ post-season hopes alive.
Nikolai Kulemin, Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel also scored for Toronto, while James Reimer made 23 saves.
“ We did a good job coming back, but it didn’t last,” said Spezza. “It would have been nice to win. We’ve got a good rivalry with these guys.
“There’s a good hate-on between these two teams and it’s healthy, I think. We definitely wanted to win. That’s not the way we wanted to lose. Give them credit. They won a big game.”
Senators coach Cory Clouston wasn’t pointing fingers, Instead, he claimed the club is simply short-handed.
“I thought we played a good game,” said Clouston. “I thought we had a lot of jump, I thought we created turnovers against them. If you look at giveaways, we didn’t give the puck away any more than they did.
“They made good on a couple of our turnovers. They’ve got some skilled guys ... We’ve got a lot of guys missing right now and you can see the effort was there. We don’t have a lot of healthy bodies.”
They could be down two more — one to injury and one to a possible suspension.
The Senators lost struggling winger Marek Svatos with a concussion in the first and he likely won’t return for the final three games of the season. He was hit by Jay Rosehill and didn’t return.
Svatos has likely played his last game with the Senators as it’s highly unlikely he’ll be brought back. The club will likely recall Colin Greening to finish out the season.
The Senators could also be without centre Zack Smith on Tuesday against the Flyers. He could be facing supplementary discipline after receiving a third-period major for boarding on Matt Lashoff, who left the game.
There have been some ugly moments for Filip Kuba this season, but not many have been worse than his decision to pivot the wrong way with Kessel speeding down the wing.
Kuba turned right, Kessel went left and the result was his 30th of the season to opening the scoring in the first. Anderson made the initial stop, but Kessel was there to bang in the rebound as Kuba looked red-faced and embarrassed.
Clouston said Kuba gutted one out and that may explain his poor play.
“He’s not 100% healthy. If it were a different situation he probably wouldn’t have played,” said Clouston. “We don’t have any bodies left. That’s just the way it goes with the trades we made.”