It was a great day in Ontario Saturday, with both the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs coming up victorious.
The Senators, who routed the surging Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Place, have won consecutive games after going through a 3-8-0 slump which started in mid-January.
On Saturday night against the Canadiens, Ottawa took a 3-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game and made it 5-0 by the 13-minute mark of the second, and cruised to a 6-1 romp.
Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet was chased after allowing three goals on only the first four shots, and was replaced by Carey Price for the remainder of the game.
Huet, the Habs' number-one goalie, is now only 1-5-0 with an ugly goals-against average of over 4.00 in his career at Ottawa.
Meanwhile, the Sens had no such goaltending problems on this night, as the controversial Ray Emery stopped 33 shots en route to winning his second-straight game.
The top line for the Senators delivered, as Jason Spezza picked up his first career hat trick—including the first two goals of the game—and finished with a six-point night, Daniel Alfredsson scored two goals of his own and had three assists, and Dany Heatley had a goal and three helpers.
Spezza, who got his hat trick on only three shots, now has 23 goals and 71 points in only 50 games. Spezza is now fourth overall in the NHL scoring race, jumping past six players.
Alfredsson, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with a hip flexor, now has 34 goals. Thanks to his five-point night, Alfredsson is now tied with Washington's Alexander Ovechkin for the NHL scoring lead.
Both Alfredsson and Ovechkin have 73 points, with the Senators' captain having played in seven fewer games (49 to Ovechkin's 56). Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier, who scored the Lightning's lone goal against Atlanta on Saturday, is next with 72.
Heatley, who had also missed 11 games with a shoulder injury before returning on Thursday, continued his hot streak. Heatley's four-point effort against Montreal came after he scored twice in Ottawa's 5-4 win against Florida Thursday.
Of course, the Sens hadn't fared well with both Alfredsson and Heatley out of the lineup, as they had gone oh-for in the five contests that the duo both missed.
Despite the Senators' recent struggles though, they have now beaten Montreal for the sixth straight time on home ice.
More importantly, Ottawa, now 34-18-4, has now opened up a five-point lead over Montreal, who fell to 29-18-9, for top spot in the Northeast Division.
And with the top line reunited again, who in the Eastern Conference is going to beat the Senators?
Meanwhile, earlier on Saturday afternoon, the Maple Leafs, ranked 28th in the league, faced the No. 1 team in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and pulled out a 3-2 overtime shocker at the ACC.
Detroit, with 41 wins and only 11 regulation losses in 56 games going in, is the second-highest scoring team in the league and also the stingiest, while Toronto isn't even a .500 team. And oh yeah, the Red Wings owned a 20-6-2 road record before the contest.
All of that meant nothing once the puck dropped.
Nik Antropov scored 62 seconds into overtime to give the Leafs the victory, deflecting a shot into the net past Dominik Hasek, who is ranked No. 2 in the NHL in goals-against average (2.04) behind teammate Chris Osgood (1.96).
It was Antropov's first game back following a three-game suspension.
Vesa Toskala made 32 saves for the Leafs, and is now an impressive 6-1-0 in his career against Detroit.
Darcy Tucker and Mats Sudin also tallied for the Leafs, who despite blowing a 1-0 first-period lead, managed to outlast the Red Wings.
With the victory, the Leafs have now beaten three of the league's top teams in the past week, to go along with an 8-0 embarrassing home loss to Florida this past Tuesday. The Leafs knocked off the Senators 4-2 last Saturday on national TV, then followed that up with another 4-2 triumph on Thursday in Montreal before this latest victory.
The Leafs (23-25-9), with three wins in their last four, are still within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, six points back of Boston (28-22-5), who currently sits in that eighth spot.
Had the Leafs not suffered all those heart-breaks and blown leads in the second half—losing valuable points in the process—they would be holding a playoff spot right now.
Ironically, three hours before the game, ESPN Classic Canada had run a rebroadcast of a 1993 Wings-Leafs tilt, Game Five at Joe Louis Arena, which was won by Toronto 5-4 in overtime.
In retrospect, that was a fore-shadow of what was to come later in the day.
For Leafs fans out there, would you rather see the Leafs trade away everyone before the trade deadline and re-build? If so, do you want to see them basically stop winning and vie for the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft this summer? Or should they just make a run for a playoff berth? What does the immediate future hold for Sundin?
For Senators fans, do you feel confident with this group going for the Stanley Cup? Or who should they pick up? Is Emery going to be traded? Any comments on the situation regarding Wade Redden, who refused to waive his no-trade clause?
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