Leafs have only themselves to blame

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

TORONTO - The way it’s going for the Maple Leafs these days, you can almost take it to the bank that the Rangers will beat the Flyers on Sunday afternoon and around the dinner hour, the Hurricanes and Sabres will go to overtime for a three-point game.

The Leafs have only themselves to blame for the hole that they dug in November so no sympathy there, but making the climb that much more daunting is the fact that out-of-town help has been virtually nonexistent.

As hot a team as there is in the NHL right now, the Leafs continued their desperate drive with a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night to run their winning streak to three and eight of the past 11. They moved to within three points of the eighth-place Rangers, but with Montreal and Carolina also winning they barely held their own ground.

At least the Washington Capitals scored late to tie up the Sabres and then won in overtime to hold Buffalo to a single point, but now there are only three remaining games to close the gap.

The Leafs still trail ninth-place Carolina by two points, the Rangers by three and the Sabres by four and all of them hold a game in hand.

GAME ON

The Phil Kessel bashers will find all sorts of reasons to dismiss the significance of it, but when the Leafs winger scored against the Sens, he hit 30 goals for a third consecutive season, one of only seven players in the NHL to do so (Alex Ovechkin joined the group Saturday as well.) Still have to believe Kessel is a 40-goal guy when he gets the support around him. The goal was Kessel’s 61th point this season, a new career high ... Give the assist on this one to Ottawa defenceman Filip Kuba who turned the wrong way allowing Kessel to cruise in on the Ottawa net all alone ... And you thought the Leafs power-play was lame? The Senators entered Saturday’s game without a PP goal in its previous seven games ... Though I don’t buy it as an excuse, the power and pull of Hockey Night In Canada seems to have an effect on the Leafs. Saturday’s win was just the team’s seventh of the biggest telecast of every week ... So far, the highlight goals for Nazem Kadri have been on the shutout. The garbage ones, like his third of the season on Saturday, have come during the games. They all count though and Kadri seems to contribute in more ways the more he plays.

More Score

As steady as Luke Schenn has been all season, that giveaway in the final minute of the second period that let the Sens back in the game was inexcusable ... Equally brain dead were the pair of penalties Mikhail Grabovski took in the third, both of them in the Sens’ zone. The first allowed Jason Spezza to score his second of the game to tie it at 2-2 ... For what it’s worth — and given that he has yet to make the playoffs here, it’s not a lot — this will be Ron Wilson’s most productive season points-wise as coach of the Leafs. Now with 84, the Leafs output this year tops the 74 and 81 in the previous two seasons ... You could see it from the moment he got here that Joffrey Lupul was going to be an impact player with the Leafs and it’s starting to pay off. The assist on Tyler Bozak’s third-period game winner was just the latest big play for Lupul. Have to wonder how much more effective he will be next season if he gets up to his proper playing weight ... Cory Clouston can jump up and down all he wants, but that Zack Smith hit on Matt Lashoff was brutal ... Almost as brutal as the five-minute Toronto power play that followed

OVERTIME

Tough night for Hockey Night In Canada crew thinking of their colleague Scott Oake who lost his son Bruce earlier in the week. A son of Scott Oake and his wife Anne and brother to Darcy, Oake was just 25. The family is asking that any donations in Bruce’s honour be directed to Simon House, an addiction treatment facility in Calgary (5819 Bowness Road NW, Calgary, AB, T3B 0C5) ... As much as the promotion of Marlies players to the big club has helped late in the season, it didn’t help the AHL team, which lost 2-0 to Lake Erie on Saturday, the seventh defeat in their past eight games. The Marlies, who have also been hurt by injuries down the stretch, are all but eliminated from playoff contention now ... How close is the race in the East? If the Rangers lose to Philly and Carolina win on Sunday, the Blueshirts drop to ninth but would remain three up on the Leafs.


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