Bad blood returns to Battle of Ontario

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

About that Battle of Ontario thing -- consider it on again.

Now somebody just has to bring this newsflash to the attention of Ottawa fans.

Far too many folks disguised as empty seats witnessed the intensity level of a Senators-Maple Leafs game rise to its previous, dizzying heights last night at Scotiabank Place.

They saw Ottawa not only win the game, but also the fights. When was the last time something like that happened?

For that matter, when was the last time there were three scraps in the first period of a Senators game, or four before the night was 22 minutes old?

Ever?

Of all people, Jesse Winchester was the instigator.

Trying to reclaim a regular spot in the roster, the sophomore from Long Sault didn’t wait to make an impact. On his first shift, he crumpled veteran winger Jamal Mayers with a hit in front of the Leafs bench that made you wonder if Anton Volchenkov was back. Seconds later, Winchester streaked down ice for a shot on Vesa Toskala and, as he rounded the net after the same, objected to the stickwork he was being given by defenceman Jeff Finger as he rounded the net.

Winchester, who is stronger than opponents know, dislocated Finger from his helmet while throwing him around. Senators 1, Leafs 0.

Bout No. 2 was the much anticipated heavyweight battle between Matt “Big Country” Carkner and Colton Orr. The two traded some pretty good blows before Big Country was felled like a tree. Somebody suggested Orr reduced him to a small province, and that we change Big Country’s name to P.E.I. for a while. If he didn’t lead the NHL in fights, maybe. But that’s got to count for something. Senators 1, Leafs 1.

The third rumble featured Chris Neil and Luke “The Dentist” Schenn. Neil started things by smacking Leafs into the boards. Schenn went after him reluctantly, finally getting in close quarters and gloveless with Neil in front of the Ottawa bench.

Schenn should have been given an extra holding penalty on the play, because that’s all he did, for dear life. Neil settled the matter with a few shots to the head. Senators 2, Leafs 1.

The ice was still fresh from the flooding when Jarkko Ruutu delivered a clean hit on Schenn and got a how-dare-you? from John Mitchell. Showing some pretty good endurance, Ruutu scored a unanimous victory over Mitchell. Senators 3, Leafs 1.

“There was some good fights, good hits, it was back and forth,” said scoring hero Mike Fisher. “It definitely felt like the Battle is a little better.”

Just sayin’

Off the healthy scratch list, Shean Donovan once again provided a spark. Is he not a better player than, oh, Jonathan Cheechoo right now? ... Fisher didn’t get his ninth goal last season until Game 60, on Feb. 26. Jason Spezza still has one.

STARTS AND STOPS: He made some great saves, especially in the third period, but Pascal "Chocolate" Leclaire gave up another one he should have had in the first period. Sure, Phil Kessel has a great shot. Yeah, maybe Alex Picard was a screen, or even deflected the puck a bit. But Leclaire has to stop a 45-foot wrist shot, no matter the circumstances ... L’Artiste was working the brush pretty good, setting up both Mike Fisher goals. The two assists marked Alex Kovalev’s first multi-point game at home.

BETWEEN PERIODS: Milan Michalek steamed forward through defenders to the Leafs net on a rush in the first. Dany Heatley’s bigger than the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Michalek. He just never played like it ... Nick Foligno was cursing himself for not scoring on what would have been a beautiful solo effort after stealing it from Niklas Hagman. But he did draw a penalty, and Ottawa scored on the ensuing power play.

NOT MUCH IN DEMAND: Remember when Leafs-Senators was a hot ticket? Last night, almost an hour before game time and in the hand of a scalper who was doing his best to be heard, it was a $40 ticket. For a seat halfway up the third level. That, my friends, is not a hot ticket. More like one you need those big snowmobile mitts to hold.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


Photos