Maple Leafs Prevail in the Final Battle of Ontario (2018)

Toronto (6) Ottawa (3) Final

By: Gordon Brown

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Saturday night marked the final match in this year’s rendition of the Battle of Ontario, with Toronto looking to even up the season series at two wins apiece. Despite Ottawa’s downward spiral, the Senators have managed to show up for each rivalry game and even assisted in restoring its relevance. 

We’re going streaking! The Leafs entered Saturday with wins in six of their last seven games and were looking to make it three-in-a-row versus Ottawa… Where it has been a whirlwind type of week, all events considered.

Alexandre Burrows received a more-than-justifiable ten-game suspension for his antics in a scuffle with Taylor Hall, then president and CEO Tom Anselmi was unexpectedly replaced, not to mention Senators GM Pierre Dorion got his contract extended for, three-years? 

I mean, he was nominated for General Manager of the Year in 2016-17 but clearly hasn’t seen that success, or much of any for that matter, age well less than one year later. If Erik Karlsson walks in free agency next year, how does Dorion expect to keep the franchise afloat? Let alone sell-out a playoff game, period? It’s a premature thought, yet there isn’t much to suggest the perennial Norris Trophy candidate decides otherwise. 

Luckily for Ottawa, they welcomed back top scorer, Mark Stone, who had been out of the lineup since suffering an against Toronto the last time around—a 4-3 loss on January 20th. His 44 points in 44 games (18 G, 26 A) lead the team. Additionally, Derick Brassard returned to help solidify the team’s extremely thin depth at centre.

On the home team’s bench, Matt Martin was absent for an eighth-straight game. Toronto’s recent affinity for winning has marked a point of no return for Leafs’ forward Matt Martin, who has been relegated to the press box since his last appearance on January 22nd.

Roman Polak was scratched of defence in favour of Connor Carrick, who was paired alongside Travis Dermott for the evening to form the third tandem.

It happened to be the twelfth annual Canadian Armed Forces Night, featuring members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Navy. Plus, it occurred on the holiest of hockey nights; Hockey Night in Canada.  

The Maple Leafs had a jump in their step onwards from the opening face-off and took advantage of their opponent accordingly. Craig Anderson came up with several big saves before Mitch Marner notched his first goal of the night with an unassisted snipe from the slot area. His 11th of the season set the tempo for what would be a dominant first period.

Toronto entered with a record of 26-5-3 when scoring first, compared to 6-14-2 when the opposition does so. 

That stat continued to look favourable as Auston Matthews recorded his team-leading 26th goal of the season to make it a 2-0 advantage. William Nylander evaded several defenders before dishing his 30th assist to his partner-in-crime trailing in the slot, where Matthews released a borderline unstoppable wrist-shot into the top right corner. 

Craig Anderson’s unfortunate outing was ended later in the frame by none other than “Magic Mitch” Marner and his second tally of the night. Marner’s 100th career NHL point and his first multi-goal game of the season came with a slick feed from honorary team dad, Patrick Marleau. Once Nazem Kadri entered the Senators zone he dropped a pass to Marleau, who connected with the eventual goal scorer in the slot for his 12th of the season.

Mike Condon replaced a battered Craig Anderson in hopes of sparking a Senators comeback.  

Johnny Oduya was able to get the Senators on the board with a quick strike in the second period, his 3rd goal of the season. A quick transition in the neutral zone saw Mark Stone connect with Oduya before delivering a slap-shot past Frederik Andersen to make it a 3-1 game. 

Toronto managed to restore their three-goal lead several minutes later thanks to James van Riemsdyk, even though he didn’t want to take credit for it. Mitch Marner nearly had his first career hat-trick, however, his shot actually redirected off of James van Riemsdyk and into the net rather than off Ottawa’s defender. A power-play goal proved crucial nonetheless.

The Maple Leafs entered Saturday with a 20-1-2 when leading after forty minutes but that was about to be tested…

Derick Brassard trimmed the deficit and scored just 0:45 seconds into the final period of regulation time to stun the home crowd. As the play got underway, former Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf helped sustain pressure in Toronto’s zone before receiving the puck himself and helping make it a 4-2 game. Phaneuf’s shot was able to find its way through several bodies before redirecting off of Brassard’s knee to get credit for the goal.

It didn’t take long for the Buds to restore their three-goal lead as Nazem Kadri recorded his 18th go the season less than two minutes later. Mitch Marner found Kadri for in the slot for a quick shot and secured his second helper of the night while making it a 5-2 lead.

Ryan Dzingel later made it a 5-3 score courtesy of his 15th of the season but it was too little, too late. 

Marner would go on to finish with a 5-point night after assisting on Patrick Marleau’s 18th goal into the empty-net to secure a 6-3 victory over their rivals from across Highway-401. Toronto outshot the opposition 41-25 and pulled even within the Battle of Ontario in the final matchup of the season.

That makes it seven wins in Toronto’s last eight games, something they will look to build upon versus the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. Puck drop is set to go at 7:00 p.m. EST 

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca

On Twitter - @GordBrown_  

Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs