Leclaire stops Leafs cold

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The Battle of Ontario was alive and kicking Tuesday night.

So was Pascal Leclaire.

The Senators goaltender kicked the rival Toronto Maple Leafs when theyre down with a sparkling 30-save performance in a hard-fought, hard-hitting, 3-2 victory in front of only 17,406 at Scotiabank Place.

It might have been the first time in the history of the rivalry the building wasnt filled. Those who didnt show up missed a two-goal performance by Mike Fisher, two assists from Alexei Kovalev and Milan Michaleks eighth goal of the season.

Though there was plenty to smile about, nobody was wearing a wider grin than Leclaire. He came up huge in the third period with big stops off Alexei Ponikarovsky, Rickard Wallin and Niklas Hagman, among others, as the Leafs pressed to tie it.

Leclaire had been heavily criticized for giving up some weak goals recently, but nobody should be complaining after this performance.

Hagman beat him at 4:49 of the second to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead, but Leclaire then shut the door and was nothing short of spectacular.

I felt pretty good. It was a fun game. It was easy to get into it because the crowd gets so loud. I dont know if it was my best game. I was able to make some good saves, said Leclaire. Theres going to be some good weeks and some bad weeks. I didnt have the best week last week. I tried to take what was good out of it and really focus on that. (Last night) I felt more confident. People are going to talk and I just have to be able to deal with it.

Fishers second of the game and ninth of the season on a perfect feed from Kovalev at 14:10 of the second turned out to be the winner.

Michalek tied it 2-2 at 11:03 on the power play by tipping it past Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala.

Coach Cory Clouston wasnt complaining, but he would have liked to have seen life a little less difficult on Leclaire.

We liked our first 50 minutes of the game. I really think we played not to lose in the last 10 minutes, instead of playing to win, said Clouston. We just kind of sat back and you cant do that. You have to pressure and its got to be smart pressure.

(Leclaire) was very good. He was really solid in the last seven minutes. He was good with the screens, the pressure and the rebound control. We made his life more difficult than it should have been. We should have just kept to the game plan. When youre pushing for a win, the natural tendency is to sit back and play not to lose.

The Leafs showed plenty of fight for a team at the bottom of the conference. There were four scraps in the first 25 minutes before the teams settled down.

It was a physical game and it was kind of back and forth, said Fisher, who opened the scoring at 8:08 of the first. There were some good battles out there.

It feels good, Fisher said of his early season success. The puck is going in and things are going well. Ive just got to keep it going. Obviously, it was nice to get the win. It was a hard-fought game. There was a lot of good hits, fights and a little bit of everything.


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