Back-to-back setbacks

The Senators celebrate their game-winning goal as Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala looks on during...

The Senators celebrate their game-winning goal as Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala looks on during third period action on Thursday. (Sun Media/Blair Gable)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Mats Sundin has caught Darryl Sittler in franchise scoring, while Vesa Toskala caught a wave in net.

But the Maple Leafs couldn't catch the breaks in a 3-2 loss to the Senators last night and need a win tomorrow against Montreal to avoid starting the new season with three losses.

After overcoming a 2-0 hole and two curveballs from the officials, they gave up a tough Daniel Alfredsson power-play shot with five minutes to play.

That made it a bittersweet evening for Alfredsson's Swedish compatriot captain Sundin, who had tied Darryl Sittler's franchise goal mark with No. 389 in the second period.

"I'll take the next goal anytime, but we need wins," Sundin said of getting one point in two bruising back-to-back games in the Battle of Ontario. "I'm very proud of (the goal), to be among the great players such as Darryl."

Sittler was only too happy to welcome Sundin to his select club.

"Congratulations to Mats," Sittler said. "He worked hard to get to this point and now that we're even I'm sure he'd like to get that go-ahead one as soon as possible. Its nice to see him get off to a good start."

Jason Blake assisted, with Nik Antropov retrieving the puck for Sundin.

"Was that a big goal?" Blake asked later, unaware of its significance. "That's good for him.

"It'll come for our line. We've played a lot of hockey the past two nights. We're trying to feel each other out, but by the same token, now it's go time."

Blake was involved in a bigger controversy, an Alex Steen goal called back by referee Chris Rooney for Blake's incidental contact with Gerber. That would've tied it 1-1.

"Jason was up on one foot to get out of the way," coach Paul Maurice said, but he absorbed the setback much easier than general manager John Ferguson, who stomped down press box row looking for an NHL supervisor.

The two rivals combined for 72 shots, with Martin Gerber bettering Toskala. But the latter established himself with 26 saves in his long-awaited Leafs, debut.

"I was relaxed before the game," Toskala insisted. "I thought I played solid, I thought I gave us a chance to win."

A crowd of 19,857 at Scotiabank Place watched the Sens raise the Eastern Conference banner to the rafters before the match. Ottawa improved to 14-2-2, against Toronto in the past 18 games.

Alfredsson scored on what looked to be a deflection off Hal Gill's shot block attempt, while Dany Heatley was awarded a goal a minute after Toskala appeared to have made a great power-play pad save in the second.

But the long commercial break gave the NHL office in Toronto time to review the play and detect the puck crossing the line. Toskala thought he stopped it.

"I was surprised ," Maurice said. "But it was a goal and a great save at the same time.

"This is where a coach is supposed to say 'if we play this well all season, we'll win' but that's really what we have to do."

Sundin's goal also broke a 13-game drought going back to last March, though his points kept coming with three in the first two games of '07-'08.

Sundin's goal was followed by Matt Stajan's second in as many games, tipping a loose puck away from Gerber as he circled the net and eventually banged in the rebound from the other side.

"That whole line with Alex and (Alexei Ponikarovsky) played well," Maurice said. "We need two lines that can score."

The Chad Kilger-Darcy Tucker-John Pohl troika has not done as well early on.

The Leafs were also burdened by 10 short-handed situations leading to two Ottawa goals, but are 0-for-14 themselves with the man advantage.

"A little tentative," Sundin said of the Leafs power play.

Gerber has been trade bait here since Ray Emery took the reins early last season, but a few 40-save nights like this should bring out a couple of tire kickers next month once Emery returns from injury.

The Leafs continue to keep enforcer Wade Belak in the stands for now, testing out Bates Battaglia-Newbury-Boyd Devereaux as an energy line.


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