Leafs skate to second straight shutout
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Dion Phaneuf celebrates his first period goal against the Ottawa Senators during first period action Saturday night. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)
So much for the hostile environment that greeted the Maple Leafs all-stars last weekend in the nationís capital.
The boos that Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf heard at Scotiabank Place became loud cheers on Saturday night as the Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators 5-0.
The latest game in the Battle of Ontario was just like a Leafs-Senators playoff game of years past ó the crowd was electric, the pace was quick and the Leafs won.
Senators fans hid none of their disgust for the Leafs during the all-star party, and the Leafs, still not honoured guests, shoved it back down their throats.
Kessel broke out of a 10-game slump with a goal and two assists. Phaneuf wired a shot past goaltender Craig Anderson during a Toronto power play in the first period, giving him eight goals and 30 points, the same totals he had in 2010-11. And Lupul had two assists, bringing him to 54 points to set a personal career high.
Letís not forget the superb James Reimer, who has stolen the Leafs net back from Jonas Gustavsson. Before a crowd that included thousands of fans in Leafs sweaters, Reimer made 49 saves (the most shots the Leafs have allowed in one game this season) for his second shutout in as many games, sending the reeling Senators to their sixth consecutive loss.
The Leafs killed off three penalties, bringing them to 22 kills in 22 short-handed situations in 2012. The Leafs have not allowed a power-play goal in 14 games in a row, their best stretch since they went 15 games in 1940-41 without giving up a power-play goal.
Toronto won for the fourth time in five games and remains in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 60 points, one behind the New Jersey Devils.
Tyler Bozak, Luke Schenn and Cody Franson also scored for the Leafs.
Bozakís ninth goal of the season came on a beautiful play in the second period. Kessel sprung Bozak, who darted past Sens defenceman Jared Cowen and avoided an Anderson poke-check, flipping the puck over the prone netminder.
Kessel had just three points in the previous 10 games and had discussed the fact that space was becoming tighter and tighter for himself and his linemates. But he strolled into Ottawa and had one of his best games of the season, using his speed and smarts to continuously frustrate the Senators defence.
Kessel scored his 27th goal of the season at 13:47 of the first period to give Toronto a 1-0 lead. His first shot was blocked by Matt Carkner, but Kessel stayed on the play and fired the puck over Anderson, who committed after anticipating the initial shot.
Less than four minutes later, during a Leafs power play, Kessel found a wide-open Phaneuf. The captain didnít wait long before shooting a 40-foot laser past Anderson.
Schenn was the recipient of a sweet pass from Bozak not quite six minutes into the third period. Schenn didnít have all day ó it just appeared that way ó as he skated in from the blue line and ripped a low shot into the net for his second of the season.
Mikhail Grabovski set up Franson with a backhand pass for another power play goal in the third. The Leafs had two power-play goals after scoring two in their previous 28 opportunities.
At the other end of the ice, Reimer was letter perfect. Unlike his 1-0 blanking of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, he didnít need the posts behind him to make any saves.
Reimer especially was excellent in the second period, when he made 21 stops. His biggest might have been on the struggling Jason Spezza, who has gone six games without a point. Spezza has a hard slapshot, and he nearly handcuffed Reimer on the first shift of the period. But Reimer got his left shoulder in front of the drive.
Reimer became the first Leafs goalie to register shutouts in successive games in two years. Jean-Sebastien Giguere did it on Feb. 2 and Feb. 6, 2010, when he blanked New Jersey and Ottawa respectively.