Senators fend off Maple Leafs
Shean Donovan and Daniel Alfredsson scored 37 seconds apart in the second period as the Ottawa Senators skated to a 2-1 road victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
Donovan scored on a scramble and Alfredsson made good on a penalty shot to lead Ottawa (1-1) to its first win of the regular season.
Alfredsson made no mistake with a backhand move on Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson, taking the penalty shot after Milan Michalek was hauled down on a breakaway and forced to leave the game with an injury.
Pascal Leclaire finished with 23 saves to record his first win in a Senators uniform, and was forced to make a chest save with two seconds left in the game on Tomas Kaberle.
Ottawa rebounded from a 5-2 loss in their season opener on Saturday to the New York Rangers. The Senators gave up several odd-man rushes against the Rangers, but they shored up defensively against the Leafs.
Matt Stajan scored in the third period for Toronto (0-2-1), with Gustavsson making 26 saves.
Maple Leafs fans were eagerly awaiting the first NHL start of rookie goaltender Gustavsson, who replaced an ineffective Vesa Toskala in the team's loss on Saturday to Washington.
It was clear, however, that Toronto's problems are deeper than who mans the crease, with both goals the result of defensive breakdowns.
The Maple Leafs have been outscored 10-3 over the first two periods so far this season, and are still looking for the first goal from one of their defencemen.
But it was the forwards who drew the most criticism from coach Ron Wilson, who said his team "stunk, period."
"That was almost an embarrassing effort from seven or eight guys who we're really counting on heavily," he said. "[They] didn't get going until it was too late, and we've got to do a much better job than that."
The scoreless first was lacking in the way of great scoring chances. Leclaire got an arm on Stajan's shot from the left side to send it into the crowd, while Gustavsson cut down the angle to smother a Jarkko Ruutu slapshot.
Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov greeted Viktor Stalberg with a hit that led to an early exit from the game for the first-year Maple Leaf.
Ottawa opened the scoring as the result of a two-on-one. While the initial shot by Chris Kelly didn't get through, Donovan was able to knock in a rebound during the ensuing scramble in front of the net.
The Leafs protested that the fourth-line forward struck the puck with a high stick, but video review upheld the goal.
"Things happen pretty fast in the game so I can't say that I knew 100 per cent that it was legit," said Donovan, who was making his season debut. "But I was hoping."
Michalek took off on a breakaway not long after the next faceoff, but was hauled down by Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn.
Michalek left for the dressing room grabbing his arm, although he would later return to the game.
Alfredsson protected the puck from a Gustavsson poke-check attempt and lifted a backhand shot over the goalie on the ensuing penalty shot.
"He's such a skilled player and he's our leader here," said Leclaire. "Big players make big plays at big times. That was one of them."
Toronto managed just five shots in the period, none of them overly threatening.
"We've got to figure out whether it's line combinations, whether it's calling some of the guys up from the minors who provided the spark in the pre-season," Wilson said.
"There are a few guys who made the team based on last year, not on what they did in training camp, and I need to find the way to light the fire under a few guys' rear ends here."
Ottawa defender Alex Picard gave Toronto an opportunity with a holding penalty early in the third, and the Leafs took advantage. Seconds after Niklas Hagman tested Leclaire, Stajan one-timed a puck from the right face-off circle past the goalie.
Picard was playing for Filip Kuba, who is out with a lower-body injury.
Toronto kept the momentum going, with Mike Komisarek drilling a shot midway through the period that rang off both goal posts.
Gustavsson did his part to keep the comeback bid alive, denying Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno within a short span with about seven minutes to go.
Leclaire stood firm, however, stopping Stajan, John Mitchell and Kaberle in the game's final minute. The goalie earned his first NHL win since Nov. 14, 2008 while with Columbus. Not long afterward, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
Ottawa will make its home debut on Thursday against the New York Islanders, the beginning of a four-game turn at Scotiabank Place.
Toronto returns on Saturday, hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Hockey Night in Canada (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET).
With files from The Canadian Press