Little to choose between foes

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

 At the halfway mark of the Battle of Ontario, there wasn't much to choose between the Maple Leafs and Senators.

 The provincial rivals were separated by just a point in the regular season and that took until the final day of the schedule to sort out, when a Toronto win at the Corel Centre gave it a 103-102 edge.

  Heading into Game 5, the clubs were even at 2-2 and there was a one-goal differential. Each team had four power-play goals, reflecting their top five status in that department in the regular season.

 "It's coming down to crunch time," Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said yesterday morning. "We know they have a great veteran team over there, but so do we."

 The series had gone mostly to script before last night, with both teams winning once in the others building and the two biggest factors being Ed Belfour's goaltending and the Sens' checking prowess.

 Alfredsson said his club can't be content with the four goals they generated in Game 4, which scratched Belfour's veneer of invincibility after his back-to-back shutouts in Game 2 and 3.

 "We have to keep getting better," he urged. "One of the keys is putting pucks on the net, getting some people in his face. We have to be patient."

 The Sens were intently watching if the Leafs would make a lineup change last night for Mats Sundin, but realize they let up in the 2002 series when it seemed the injury-plagued Leafs could not erase a 3-2 deficit. But Toronto won the last two games of the series to take it in seven.

 "It doesn't mattter who they have in the lineup, we have to be ready," Chris Neil said. "They made some moves (at the trade deadline) to be ready for that possibility."

 Leafs coach Pat Quinn was not interested in revamping the game plan for the rest of the series as much as getting his team to adhere to the strategy laid out before Game 1.

 "They (Sens) don't want to have to fight for the puck in their zone, but we don't want to (check) them there," he said.

 Opposite number Jacques Martin wanted his team to get the opening goal for the first time in the series. In the regular season, Ottawa had a record of 30-8-4-3 when striking first.


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