A rousing sendoff

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:44 PM ET

While fans of 16 NHL teams have something to look forward to in the weeks ahead, the Air Canada Centre crowd last night had to settle for far less.

At least the 19,370 brave souls saw a season-ending win over the provincial rival Ottawa Senators, a 5-2 effort highlighted by an impressive Boyd Devereaux hat trick.

Far more sobering though, was the final chance to witness the core of a roster that made dubious franchise history by missing the playoffs for a record fourth consecutive season.

While largely dismissed in the name of rebuilding, the team also finished with its fewest points (81) and wins (34) in 10 seasons.

"No one is OK with it, no one wants to be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start," Leafs rookie defenceman Luke Schenn said. "So many other teams have something to look forward to.

"It sucks to be in this position."

If there is solace for the long-suffering fans, beyond Devereaux's late-season bid to be part of the future, the outfit they saw last night should have little semblance to the lineup coach Ron Wilson will ice come October.

"We've identified some people we believe we can build our team around in the future," Wilson said afterward. "There are lots of pieces we have to add, but all in all I'm generally pleased with the effort.

"I think the future is bright for a lot of our young people who learned a lot this year."

If there was another big gain from the season, in Wilson's view, it was that the attitude around the club has shifted. Players are more accountable, he believes, and have bought into the rigid systems of the coaching staff.

CULTURE CHANGE

"There has been a change in the culture a little bit, the culture of entitlement," Wilson said. "We have a solid work ethic in practice now, better than it was at the beginning of the year."

There is still plenty to work on, obviously, if the team doesn't want to make it five seasons in a row out of the playoffs.

The two goals the Leafs surrendered last night raised their season total to 293, the runaway lead for most in the league and most the Leafs have allowed since the 82-game schedule was instituted in 1995-96.

A power-play goal by Jason Spezza last night further cemented the Leafs' record as the league's worst on the penalty kill.

The Leafs jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Devereaux's first two goals, but some sloppiness by goalie Martin Gerber behind his own net allowed the Sens to tie things midway through the second.

Nik Hagman scored the game-winner at 3:37 of the third on a nice feed from Mikhail Grabovski.

After Devereaux's break-away goal to clinch the hat trick with just 2:49 remaining, Hagman added his 22nd of the season into an empty net.

It was a big night for Devereaux, who was hoping to use his late-season promotion as a chance to make a positive impression on management heading into the summer. Wilson referred to him as a "bubble player" and applauded his effort last night.

"When I got called up I tried to work as hard as I could to do everything I could to earn a new contract," Devereaux said. "I feel like I've done everything I could."

With the win, the Leafs took care of the last unfinished piece of business -- any shot at getting the top pick in the upcoming NHL draft.

With 81 points, the Leafs ensured that they couldn't be caught by Western Conference dregs Phoenix and Los Angeles.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA

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REPLAY

WHAT RIVALS

For the first time since the current Ottawa franchise started play in 1992-93, both the Leafs and Senators missed the playoffs in the same season.

NO ALFIE, NO FUN

The Sens shut down the season on captain and Daniel Alfredsson, the favourite target of Air Canada Centre boo-birds.

Alfredsson, who has been nursing a sore back, was a scratch last night.

MAY-HEM

Playing in his 1,001st career game, Leafs forward Brad May had his most productive game in terms of feistiness in his 38 games as a Leaf.

The veteran was in a foul mood, piling up 18 penalty minutes.

KILLER-THRILLER

The Leafs honoured recently retired Ottawa 67s coach Brian Kilrea with a video tribute.

Leafs president Brian Burke invited the man they call "Killer" to the ACC for last night's game and he was given a seat behind the Leafs bench.

GOOD FOR GERBER

Other than a couple blunders behind his own net, Leafs goalie Martin Gerber had a strong night and got some revenge on his former team. Gerber stopped 37 of 39 shots from the Sens team that lost faith in him.

POINT-GETTERS

Toronto G A P

Boyd Devereaux 3 0 3

Niklas Hagman 2 0 2

Lee Stempniak 0 2 2

Matt Stajan 0 2 2

Mikhail Grabovski 0 1 1

Alexei Ponikarovsky 0 1 1

Ottawa

Jason Spezza 1 0 1

Chris Kelly 1 0 1


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