OTTAWA -- The Canadian War Museum is quite a distance from Scotiabank Place, but there still was lots of talk about tank jobs yesterday.
Whispers began almost immediately during the Maple Leafs morning skate when word leaked out that coach Ron Wilson had decided to start little-used goaltender Curtis Joseph in net against the Ottawa Senators -- despite the fact that the usual starter, Vesa Toskala, had played so well of late.
The (conspiracy) theory is that the Leafs elected to start Joseph, who has struggled this year, because they don't necessarily want to win at this point of the season. The lower the Leafs finish in the standings, the better chance of wining the lottery and receiving the No.1 draft pick, which will feature two youngsters -- John Tavares of the London Knights and Victor Hedman of the Swedish club Modo -- considered franchise-type players.
But Wilson and general manager Brian Burke have scoffed at suggestions that the Leafs would purposely lose games to increase their chances of winning the draft lottery. Wilson said he decided to start Joseph for the first time since Jan.1 because Toskala looked tired in Toronto's 5-4 shootout victory over the Islanders at Long Island on Thursday.
"We're not trying to kill anybody," Wilson said.
In the end, Joseph, who has been extremely gracious this season despite his struggles and very limited playing time, played well enough to lead the Leafs to a 4-3 overtime victory, making 29 saves, for his second win of the season. It was the Leafs' fourth straight win, all coming in overtime. They now have played a franchise record six straight games in overtime.
"We feel very confident that we can win in overtime," Joseph said after the game. "So let's keep doing it."
At the other end of the ice, the Senators went with rookie goaltender Brian Elliott who, coincidentally, was born and raised in York Region and went to the University of Wisconsin, as did Joseph, whom Elliott considers a hero of his. Elliott was born in Newmarket and Joseph in Keswick.
"He's a legend," said Elliott, who let in four goals on 38 shots. "The motivation is always there (to play well), but this is extra special.
As for suggestions that a team would purposely tank, Joseph called the idea "unfathomable."
"We go out to win every game with the greatest intensity," he said. "We have a lot of pride in winning and you play against the guy standing across from you and you don't want to lose. We don't think in that realm."