Leafs lose the flow

Toronto Maple Leafs' (l-r) Bryan McCabe, Nik Antropov and Staffan Kronwall share in the fun of...

Toronto Maple Leafs' (l-r) Bryan McCabe, Nik Antropov and Staffan Kronwall share in the fun of Antropov's goal in the first period of their pre-season matchup against the Ottawa Senators Sunday night. (Toronto Sun/Dave Abel)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

There could be 18 meetings this season between the Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, counting regular season, playoffs, rookie games and the first of two exhibitions last night.

Hopefully, the Sens' 5-2 victory will be the only one that needs 19 power plays to prod the two clubs into obeying new NHL rules and obstruction standards.

Though only three goals resulted from special-teams situations, the change in flow proved more difficult for the Leafs, who watched the speedy Sens turn a 2-0 deficit into an easy win at the Air Canada Centre as the NHL returned to Toronto.

"Clubs with great specialty teams will be tops in their conference," Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "But as long as referees call it consistently all year, we'll all get used to it.

"You have to remember that we haven't played hockey in a year and a half. We have another two weeks to build here and we'll be fine."

The league average for power plays was 19.8 through the first nine weekend exhibitions, so the Leafs and Sens have the same challenge as 28 other teams approaching the Oct. 5 season opener.

"I don't think we had many shifts 5-on-5," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who excelled early in the game with Nik Antropov and rookie Alex Steen. "Some of the calls you don't understand, and you could tell (Ottawa) was as confused as us. But you didn't see the pin and grab and hopefully that (clean play) continues.

"I can't remember when we beat Ottawa in exhibition anyway (0-3 in 2003). It seems they're always ahead of us in skating and passing."

That's exactly what bugged coach Pat Quinn as much as the power plays which, by the way, came out 10-9 in Toronto's favour.

"Everyone has this idea of stretching (the opposing defence) in mind," Quinn said. "But there were times when all three of our forwards took off. They were just thinking about getting out to the other zone (to take advantage of the 'invisible' red line). They think they'll get the puck once they're there, but that's not the way you use the new increased areas."

Quinn no doubt was sour that four of the calls against Toronto included two pucks fired over the glass (now a no-no for skaters) and a pair of third period too-many-men calls.

Quinn was quick to single out defenceman Bryan Marchment for praise.

"Bryan Marchment was probably our best guy back there," Quinn said.

Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored for the Leafs, who began losing steam in the second period as they were outshot 11-0 at one stage and 39-21 overall.

Eric Lindros' ACC debut was so-so. He made a couple of good plays and drew two penalties, but one was for flipping the puck over the glass. He and Sundin scored for the Leafs in their post-game shootout win.

---

SENATORS 5, MAPLE LEAFS 2

The Leafs opened their eight-game pre-season schedule with a 2-0 first-period lead, but were blanked after that.

-- THE DIFFERENCE: The Leafs took consecutive penalties four seconds apart in the second period, leading to five unanswered Ottawa goals.

-- THE GOAL-SCORERS:

TOR: Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky

OTT: Brandon Bochenski, Daniel Alfredsson, Andrej Meszaros, Mike Fisher, Jason Spezza

-- UP NEXT:

Tomorrow, vs. the Boston Bruins, at Hamilton, 7:30 p.m.


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