Maple Leafs into post-season with win over Senators

Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer celebrates clinching a playoff spot after defeating the...

Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer celebrates clinching a playoff spot after defeating the Senators at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, April 20, 2013. (DARREN BROWN/QMI Agency)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:23 AM ET

OTTAWA - Call it a business trip if you want, but when the Maple Leafs boarded a team charter for Florida late Saturday night, there couldn’t be a more anticipated destination for the long-suffering franchise.

Forget the Sunshine State, though, because for the first time in nine years, the longer-term highlight of the itinerary includes a trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs, a feat that has ended the NHL’s longest current drought of missing the post-season.

A grinding 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday at Scotiabank Place, coupled with the Winnipeg Jets shootout loss to the New York Islanders in the afternoon, allowed the Leafs to maintain fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 55 points and clinch a playoff spot for the first time since the spring of 2004.

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle has been adamant in playing down the significance of the playoff absence, but in his first complete season behind the bench he clearly knows what it means to the team’s long-suffering fan base and to a franchise stocked with young talent and potentially on the upswing.

“I use the word respect,” said Carlyle, who shook the hands of each of his assistant coaches as the final horn sounded. “I think the fans have been diehards.

“It’s one of those things that for a period of time, there’s been a lot of sand kicked in the faces of the people of Toronto. Hopefully this gives them something to stand up and cheer for.”


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