Heat's building on Leafs

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

TORONTO -- Senators 3, Maple Leafs 2

It's not something the Senators have seen quite often enough lately, but there it was early in the third period last night.

Senators centre Jason Spezza stickhandling his way past two Toronto Maple Leafs in the neutral zone; winger Dany Heatley knifing over the line and into the high slot, stick upraised, pointing at the rafters of the Air Canada Centre.

Spezza passed, Heatley shot and the Senators won a ragged, bumpy game, 4-2 over the Leafs, seriously damaging the Leafs' playoff hopes.

"I just gave him a little yell, but he knew where I was," said Heatley, whose one-timer, resulting in his 36th goal of the year, whistled over the right shoulder of Toronto goaltender Ed Belfour just past the four-minute mark of the third. It gave the Senators their seventh win over the Leafs this season in as many games.

"It was a hell of a shot," said Leafs coach Pat Quinn.

EMERY SOLID

Seeing Spezza and Heatley hook up like that was a good thing, but there were others last night, too: Some rugged play from rookie Patrick Eaves, who scored his 12th goal, a third goal in as many games for defenceman Brian Pothier and some good goaltending from rookie Ray Emery when the Senators were being seriously outplayed for a stretch in the second period.

The win, Ottawa's fourth in a row, gave the Senators 85 points, three behind the Carolina Hurricanes for first in the Eastern Conference with the Sens holding a game in hand.

The Leafs' loss, their 15th in their last 18 games, seriously dinged their playoff hopes. They fell seven points behind the eighth-place Montreal Canadiens, who beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 last night.

"It's fun playing here," said Heatley. "It Spezza's home town and I think he gets fired up. Maybe it's the rivalry or the energy."

The news got worse for the Leafs after the game: They learned centre Eric Lindros is done for the season after he reinjured his right wrist.

"I tore it again," said an emotional Lindros, fighting back tears. "I'll need surgery this week.

"It's not a lot of fun."

Lindros, who had just returned after missing 27 games because of the damaged wrist, said it happened when he took a slap shot late in the second period. He didn't return for the third.

Meanwhile, Emery, thrust into the starter's role while Dominik Hasek recovers from a groin injury, made 22 saves for his third win in a row.

"I was really excited," said Emery. "This is close to my home town in Hamilton. I grew up with Hockey Night in Canada sitting at home watching it. This was one of the biggest games of my life."

The Senators trailed 1-0 after the first period on a goal by Toronto's Tomas Steen.

But Eaves made a couple of good plays to get the Senators their first, hammering Toronto defenceman Alexander Khavanov behind the Leafs net and then going to the slot. Eaves then jammed a rebound under Belfour at 3:08.

Pothier got his third goal in as many games just 1:16 later, firing a point shot over a screened Belfour's left shoulder.

The Leafs then went on a run in which they outshot the Senators 11-0 and, if not for Emery giving the club some of his best goaltending of the season, might have taken control of the game then.

The Leafs tied it 2-2 on a brutal giveaway by rookie Chris Kelly for which Emery could not be faulted. Kelly, whose stick broke at a bad moment, passed the puck from behind his own net onto the stick of Leaf Darcy Tucker. Emery stopped his shot, but Alex Ponikarovsky buried the rebound at 8:09.

The Leafs had a bunch of good chances after that when Ottawa's Antoine Vermette went to the box for high-sticking.

Emery, lying face down in the crease, got his left toe on a shot by Toronto's Alex Steen. Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle tapped the fluttering rebound and Senators defenceman Zdeno Chara batted it away from the goal line just in time.

"I thought (Emery) would be nervous here, but he played well," said Senators coach Bryan Murray.

"We just found a way in the third period. That was a good pass by Spezza to Heatley."

On the down side, tough guy Brian McGrattan left the game with a bruised foot.

The Senators' five-game road trip continues tomorrow night in Tampa (7:30, Rogers Sportsnet).

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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