Maple Leafs hold off Senators
Toronto wins 4th straight at home
Francois Beauchemin's third-period shot lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs to a one-goal victory on Monday night, turning the tables on the Ottawa Senators.
Jason Blake and Phil Kessel also scored in the 3-2 home win at Air Canada Centre. Vesa Toskala was again solid in net, finishing with 22 saves.
Toskala and the Leafs caught a break in the game's final minute. The netminder couldn't find the puck after making a save on Erik Karlsson's point shot.
Senators forward Jesse Winchester put the rebound into the net, but it was ruled to have been kicked in, just before Jason Spezza was able to get his stick on the disc.
The Leafs also overcame a pair of penalties for too many men on the ice. Toronto (12-14-7) has won eight of the last 11 games.
"There were a couple odd-man rushes in the second, but other than that it was a pretty easy game for me," Toskala said. "Only a couple saves in the third. I think the boys played well."
The Maple Leafs are now tied for 10th in the East with four other teams. The Senators dropped to seventh with Atlanta winning.
Ottawa (16-12-4) had won the previous two meetings between the clubs this season by one goal.
Spezza and Mike Fisher scored for the Senators in the tightly contested game, with Brian Elliott making 21 saves in net.
The Senators have dropped five of the last eight games.
The teams played a scoreless first, but it didn't want for action. Milan Michalek registered three shots, with teammate Spezza and Toronto's Blake each firing two on net.
"We still always seem to test the water in the first period and start [getting] going in the second," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "I really haven't figured out why."
Blake broke the stalemate at 2:15 of the second. Ottawa's forwards got pinned at the Toronto blue-line, with the speedy winger dashing down the right side before letting go a harmless looking backhander that beat Elliott between the pads.
Chris Phillips snuck into the slot a few minutes later but Toskala gloved his shot.
Toronto put the pressure on during a mid-period scramble, and just over a minute later, Matt Stajan's blast was blocked by Elliott.
The Leafs squandered their momentum by taking their second penalty for too many men on the ice. Ottawa worked the puck around well during the first minute of the power play, but couldn't get a premium shot off.
But soon after the penalty expired, Nick Foligno led an Ottawa rush. His shot was stopped by Toskala, but Fisher potted the rebound at 13:07.
The centre has 14 goals and now has points in his last four games.
The Leafs replied just 59 seconds later as Ottawa's skaters got caught drifting to one side. Ponikarovsky found Kessel all alone down the right wing, and he snapped a shot just inside the post.
Kessel now has 12 goals and eight assists since his Nov. 3 debut with Toronto, a span of 21 games.
"That's another difference from the first month or so, the fact that we have a difference-maker, a pure sniper," said Wilson. "We have a really hardworking group that some nights might not finish, and Phil, if he gets an opportunity like that, more often than not will and it makes the rest of the guys on the team confident."
Toskala batted away Daniel Alfredsson's point shot late in the second, while Ponikarovsky found himself alone in front of Elliott but lost control of the puck.
Stajan took a penalty for holding the stick, and Spezza got his third in five games on the Ottawa power play. The centre took an Alfredsson pass down low on the left side and feinted Toskala before releasing his shot.
Blake was again in the thick of things on the fifth goal of the game, picking up a loose puck and working it back to the point.
Garnet Exelby also drew an assist on Beauchemin's goal, which at first appeared to have been deflected by Mikhail Grabovski.
Phillips gave his team a chance by clearing a puck from the crease after Ponikarovsky's shot from the left side trickled past Elliott.
Toronto has scored 30 goals in seven December games.
The Maple Leafs will go for a fifth straight win at home when the Phoenix Coyotes pay a rare visit on Wednesday. Ottawa hosts Buffalo at Scotiabank Place on the same night.
With files from The Canadian Press