Sunday, March 7, 2010

Toronto Maple Leafs 2 at Ottawa Senators 1 (SO) - March 6, 2010

Despite being born in Ottawa, I'm a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, and have developed a healthy hatred for my hometown Senators. So when Toronto visits Scotiabank Place and I am in town too, I have to go. It was Hockey Night in Canada too, so the place would be hopping.

Salute to Canada

The ceremonial faceoff was handled by three Olympic gold medalists: women's hockey player Jennifer Botterill (on the left below) and ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (waving below). A large Canadian flag was passed around the lower bowl (see the picture above) while Canadian Olympic highlights played overhead. When the anthem was sung, the crowd joined in. There were plenty of Leaf fans in attendance, but for this one moment, everyone sang together. A nice start to the evening.

Turning Over New Leafs?

Opening faceoff

This was the 5th Leaf road game that I'd be watching this season, but this squad and the one I saw back in Florida in late January bore little resemblance. Out of the 20 players who had dressed for Toronto's 2-0 loss to the Panthers, 8 were no longer with the team. And the result was happily quite different. These Leafs showed speed, good transition into the offensive zone, and physical play for most of the game. Only a great performance by Pascal Leclaire kept the Senators in the contest.

Dion Phaneuf above and Nikolai Kulemin below

The first period was tough with a lot of hitting and scuffling after the whistles. Chris Neil knocked in a rebound on the power play to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead, but the story of the period was the fight between Toronto's Colton Orr and Ottawa's Matt Carkner. The two had fought three times previously this season, with Orr having won two of those bouts. With two minutes to go in the period, they went at it again, first having to extricate themselves from a linesman who was trying to prevent the fight from starting. Both players landed a few good punches as the fisticuffs lasted well over a minute to the fans' delight, but Orr eventually got Carkner onto the ice. Orr felt he had won the fight and as he skated off he raised three fingers to indicate his 3rd victory over Carkner. Not a classy move, and in my mind, not necessarily a true statement in this case. The picture below shows Orr connecting with a solid right.

The second period was still physical, but there were only a couple of minor penalties. Phil Kessel scored a great goal for Toronto, beating Leclaire low to the stick side to tie the game at 1. Kessel added a goal late in the period, but it was waved off as the puck had been touched with a high stick.

Brian Lee takes a tumble

The Leafs dominated the third period, outshooting the Senators 11-3, but Leclaire (below) kept the puck out of the net and we went to overtime.

A quiet five minutes decided nothing, so the shootout was required. Ottawa went first and Alex Kovalev hit the post behind Jonas Gustavsson. Kessel then shot for Toronto, and scored on a weird play, coming all the way over to the right boards and then cutting across, putting the puck between Leclaire's legs for the goal, shown below.

Jason Spezza then shot for Ottawa and Gustavsson saved it, which brought Nikolai Kulemin out for Toronto. He calmly skated in and blew a shot by Leclaire to give the Leafs the win. Leafs win! Leafs win! I was ecstatic. The Leafs winning in Ottawa in a shootout - it couldn't get any better than this!

Overall, it was a great hockey game. There were many Leaf fans in attendance and as Ottawa wilted, these fans took over, cheering "Go Leafs Go" down the stretch. It was good to see the Leafs outskating the Senators and generally taking it to them in the third period. Ottawa was suffering from a bout of the flu that forced captain Daniel Alfredsson to miss the game, but I think Toronto wanted it more. But it looks like Ottawa's goaltending crisis has been solved for now as Leclaire took first star. That's him below before overtime.


I found a season-ticket holder who was selling his seats at a discount on-line. We were just two rows from the ice near the Senators bench, which are obviously great seats as I think you can tell by some of the pictures. But they also came with valet parking, a $30 value if you want to use it without a voucher. Regular parking is $11, and frankly the additional $19 is not worth it, but it was certainly a new experience to drop off the car and walk straight into the arena.

We also ate dinner at Frank Finnigan's, one of the Bank's (Scotiabank Place's nickname) restaurants. It's named after the last surviving member of the 1927 Ottawa Senators championship team, who died in 1991 before the Senators began playing. The food was OK, prices were not outrageous, and the place was packed more than two hours before game time. It's a much better choice than eating inside the arena and certainly worth trying if you want to beat the rush.

Next Up

I'm flying to Toronto in a few hours and hoping to catch the Marlies and Hartford. After last night's game, this will be a bit of an anti-climax, but check back for a short report on that tomorrow.



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