Sens put hurting on Leafs, tie it up

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:33 PM ET


 One by one, the bright lights on the Maple Leafs were extinguished last night, sending the dead-even Battle of Ontario down a blind alley.

 Joe Nieuwendyk was gone before the opening faceoff at the Corel Centre with a back injury, Ed Belfour crashed back to earth and Mats Sundin was taken out of the game to rest a sore leg, leaving the hungry Ottawa Senators a 4-1 win.

 Now, the Sens either carry the baton for a change and keep the checking heat on the Leafs in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final in Toronto tomorrow night, or the veteran Leafs adjust and stage one of their classic spring rallies. Sundin wanted to come back after a third-period crash into the boards hurt his left leg and he made it to the team bus with little difficulty, but Nieuwendyk's back spasms are the most worrisome.

 DEAL WITH IT

 "We just deal with it," defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "(General manager) John Ferguson did a great job adding depth at the trade deadline with five or six NHL regulars."

 But will coach Pat Quinn take a healthy regular out of the lineup as well as make the anticipated switch for Nieuwendyk? Quinn said another 30-plus shots by the Sens on Belfour did not bother him as much as letdowns on the first two Sens goals.

 "We won two faceoffs, but gave up two goals," a steamed Quinn said of Ottawa ending Belfour's playoff shutout streak at 157 minutes 45 seconds, then taking a 2-1 lead. "If that's the way we're going to play, we won't be around long."

 Daniel Alfredsson, delivering on his team's morning vow to stop Belfour's back-to-back-to-back shutout bid, easily shook Tomas Kaberle in the last minute of the opening period to tie the game. Then Gary Roberts, who scored for the Leafs, left Bryan Marchment flat-footed with a weak pass at the Ottawa line that Marian Hossa stole and later buried.

 "It's easy to say guys have to step up, but we have to have better performances from guys in our lineup right now," Quinn said.

 Twenty seconds after Sundin limped off, Todd White banked a shot off Darcy Tucker past Belfour and Chris Phillips ended it on the Sens' seventh of eight power plays.

 "I don't know how we can drive it into heads here that we can't give up that kind of ice time on special teams," Quinn said.

 Mikael Renberg took Nieuwendyk's place with Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Antropov shifted to centre, but the line wasn't a factor and Antropov took two bad penalties.

 "We'll find a way to regroup," said Roberts, who has personally led such missions in the past.


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