It was a hollow victory at best.
The Ottawa Senators were more than happy to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 Saturday night on home ice to extend their win streak to four games. But in the big picture it meant little.
"It was important for us to try and win this hockey game and send the fans home happy in the last home game," said Spezza. "(The streak) shows that we can be a more consistent club, but it still doesn't matter because we didn't make the playoffs and that was our ultimate goal and we didn't get there. Obviously we've done some better things of late, but we would have liked to do that earlier in the season."
Spezza scored the lone goal, and Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots for his fourth shutout of the season as the Senators played their final home game of the regular season. Ottawa wraps up the season Sunday against Pittsburgh.
With the victory, the Senators (36-31-14) tied their season-high winning streak of four games and finished the year above .500 on home ice with an 18-17-6 record. It was also their first win against Toronto this season.
Senators coach Paul MacLean tried to focus on the positive of winning the last four games despite the disappointment of falling short this season.
"We're playing games that don't mean much in the standings as far as getting us into the Stanley Cup playoffs which is what it's all about," said MacLean. "But at the same time finishing our home schedule like we are is way better."
The Leafs (38-36-8) capped off their season with 12 losses in their last 15 games, leaving them below the Senators in the standings.
"It's terribly disappointing and emotional," said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. "It's like you almost get in a state of depression because it's such a negative in your life. We're embarrassed about the way things unraveled for our hockey club."
James Reimer faced 37 shots, making a number of big saves to keep Toronto in the game. Reimer finished the season with a 12-16-1 record.
Reimer's future unknown
With his future unknown Reimer, who will be a restricted free agent, was visibly emotional following the game.
"There definitely were some thoughts like that (that this could be my last game with Toronto," said Reimer. "I was just trying to come in here and have a last memorable game. Thinking about all the memories, it's just been an interesting time."
Despite the difficulties he and the Leafs had down the stretch Reimer admitted to feeling somewhat positive about his game of late.
"I've been feeling really good the last couple of games and really getting back to the way I can play," said Reimer. "It's good to have a night (Saturday) statistically to show where I was back to, but obviously it would have been nice to get the win. Personally it's good to end on a high note."
Milan Michalek had a chance to put Ottawa up 2-0 on a breakaway in the third period, but Reimer was able to get over and make the save along the post.
"I think we created a lot of scoring chances and just couldn't put one in the net," said Ottawa's Erik Karlsson. "Luckily for us Anderson was standing on his head and made some unbelievable saves when we needed it and we only needed to score the one."
Anderson was pleased with his and the team's overall performance, but admitted he wished they could have played like this earlier in the season.
"I think it's bittersweet," said Anderson. "There's also some frustration that we couldn't have done this sooner throughout the year, but that's just part of the growing pains and some of the adversity we had."
The Leafs had a two-man advantage for 23 seconds midway through the third period, but were unable to capitalize.
Toronto's inability to produce on the power play had been a huge problem down the stretch. In their last ten games the Leafs were 4-for-30 with the man advantage.
"It's disappointing to not be playing next week," said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. "This is our job. It's a business and we're in the business of results and we didn't get results. We were in a very good spot and we let it slip away and that's the extremely disappointing part of everything."
Spezza opened the scoring at the seven-minute mark of the second with a power-play goal. Karlsson found Spezza alone in the faceoff circle and the Senators captain caught the inside of the post for his 23rd of the season.
Spezza now has 56 points in 56 career games against the Leafs.
Both teams had goals called off in a scoreless first period.
At the eight-minute mark of the first, Toronto's Tyler Bozak had a goal called off immediately due to a high stick, and on the ensuing play the Senators had a goal of their own waived off after incidental contact with the goaltender was called on the play.