The battle of Ontario found the combatants at opposite ends of the standings but the visiting Sens gave the hometown Leafs all they could handle who squeaked out a 5-4 victory at the Scotiabank Arena Wednesday night.
Morgan Reilly had the winner on a great feed from Zach Hyman midway through the third and Toronto hung on for dear life after blowing a two-goal lead entering the final frame. The restless blue and white faithful held their collective breaths for the final 10-minutes sensing disaster was about to strike at any moment against a team they should put away. But this is the NHL and any team can beat anyone on any given night especially the lower echelon teams that have players fighting for jobs with the trade deadline a couple weeks away.
Added is an intense rivalry that brings out the best in both sides that even had the fans exchanging "un-pleasantries" among themselves.
Toronto pushed the tempo to a quick pace and, for most the first period, hemmed Ottawa in their own zone but Craig Anderson, who seems to save his best games for the Leafs, was solid and held them to a lone Zach Hyman. Before the period ended, and clearly being outplayed, the pesky Sens tied the score on Magnus Paajarvi's first of a pair on the night. Trade deadline candidate Matt Duchene gave the visitors a 2-1 lead as Toronto once again slipped into the funk that befalls them at home in the second period. To their credit they dug in and were rewarded with goals by Johnsson, Tavares and Matthews in a 4-minute span giving them a 2-goal cushion entering the third period.
However, before fans in platinum’s returned to their seats, the scoreboard read four apiece as the Sens, with a never-say-die attitude, fought back with two quick goals. If not for the acrobatic heroics of Frederik Andersen, Ottawa may have pulled off the upset.
Toronto did feed off the 40-save performance that eventually lead to Reilly’s winner but not before a last minute push from the guys who play out of our nation's capital.
A win is a win, no matter how you slice it, and while they were fortunate to come away with the two points, 6 road games over the next 14 days beginning Saturday in Montreal will go a long way to determining how their season will play out.