Craig Anderson's confidence started being rebuilt the moment he found out he was getting another start.
One night after being pulled just over two minutes into a loss against Buffalo — the quickest hook in Ottawa Senators history, according to Elias Sports Bureau — Anderson made 31 saves during a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
It was an important bounce-back performance for the struggling No. 1 netminder. The turning point might have been a discussion between Anderson and coach Paul MacLean in the wake of his quick exit against the Sabres.
"It's a huge confidence lift when the coach comes to you and says 'You weren't very good the night before and we need more out of you' and you respond," said Anderson. "It's a huge emotional lift knowing that he's got confidence in me and that just makes my confidence go higher and higher."
'I thought that our whole team competed better than we did in the previous games.' — Senators head coach Paul MacLean
Anderson was thought to be one of the only reasons for optimism with the rebuilding Sens heading into the season, but the team has managed a decent start in spite of some subpar play from him.
That wasn't the case against the Maple Leafs, who pressed hard for the equalizer in the third period.
"He competed," MacLean said of Anderson. "I thought that our whole team competed better than we did in the previous games. … We did a good job of defending, didn't give up [many] second opportunities and if we did Craig was there to stop them."
Nick Foligno, with two, Sergei Gonchar, Zack Smith and Milan Michalek had goals for Ottawa (8-9-1), which continues its six-game road trip with a swing through Western Canada next week.
Boos in 3rd period
Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul replied for the Leafs (10-6-1).
The fans voiced some displeasure with boos in the third period as Toronto dropped its third straight game at Air Canada Centre. It's been more than a week since the Leafs got a goal from their second, third or fourth line.
"To be honest with you, tonight we had only one line and that was the Bozak line," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "The [Mikhail] Grabovski line really wasn't a threat. The two wingers didn't have a shot on goal all night. And then we were alternating our third and fourth lines.
"I was doing my best to get the Grabovski lines going with a little bit of extra ice time, but it didn't work."
The turning point for Ottawa came when it started to take over the special teams battle in the second period.
Bozak had given the Leafs a 1-0 lead, but Toronto was unable to extend the advantage during two subsequent power plays. Gonchar tied it 1-1 at 9:11 on a delayed penalty after Kaspars Daugavins found him alone in front and kicked the puck his way.
Ben Scrivens was making his fourth start in the last five games for the Leafs and couldn't be faulted when Foligno made it 2-1 with a breakaway goal on a 5-on-3 power play. It was a measure of revenge for Foligno, who scored with gauze hanging out of his nose after taking a high stick from Toronto's Philippe Dupuis to create the man advantage situation.
"The andrenaline was pumping," said Foligno.
Added MacLean: "The hockey gods have a way of evening things out I guess."
The Senators got an important insurance goal from Smith just 48 seconds into the third period. He beat Scrivens on an odd-man rush after Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf got caught up ice.
Lupul made it 3-2 with a wraparound goal at 17:10 and the Leafs looked poised for a comeback, but Foligno and Phillips each hit the empty net to secure Ottawa's first victory since a 3-2 decision over Toronto on Oct. 30.
"I think it's huge for us because we've had a lot of games we've kind of been close," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We've just got to keep pushing ourselves and keep getting better and believe in the process. To get a win, I mean it just validates all of the effort you put in and lifts the confidence level of the team."
It also comes at an important juncture of the schedule.
Ottawa flew home after the game and was scheduled to board another plane Sunday afternoon for Calgary. They'll visit the Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins before playing another game at Scotiabank Place.
"We just needed to get out of our little slump that we were in," said Anderson. "It's a good start, something to build off of. You've just got to move forward and continue with the positive things."