Thursday, April 08, 2004

Forty second turnaround

Penalties, turnovers and weak defensive work proved to be a bad combination for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they dropped Game One of their Stanley Cup Quarterfinal to Ottawa 4-2 at the Air Canada Center.

Referee Marc Joannette won’t be finding many kind things written or said about him in the Toronto media, Joannette called three consecutive penalties in the second period, setting the stage for the Senators to score two goals in forty seconds, a turning point in the hard fought opening game. Wade Redden scored at the 10 minute mark to tie the game, Marian Hossa following up forty seconds later to give the Senators the lead for good on Thursday night.

After that a solid Senator defense kept the back end clear for Patrick Lalime as Toronto’s offensive attack stalled, Zdeno Chara winning the one on one battle with Mats Sundin, holding the Leafs captain off the scoring sheet and in fact ensuring he did not register a shot on net all game, his line mates Renberg and Roberts limited to one shot each. Maple Leaf defensive miscues proved to be their undoing, missed checks, not enough finish on their checks and a laissez faire attitude in front of Ed Belfour all contributing to the loss.

Hossa picked up his second goal of the game early in the third, flying over the top of Belfour and sweeping the puck into an empty net to give the Sens a cushion for the night. Ottawa out shot the Leafs 30-17 and showed a strong ability to come back after each Leaf goal with a flurry of shots and a couple of goals, never falling too far behind to get off their game plan.

Joe Niewendyk and Bryan McCabe scored on Patrick Lalime, Bryan Marchment scored on Ed Belfour, making the score 2-1 by the mid point of the second period. Marchment’s inadvertent point on his own goaltender coming off of a Bryan Smolinski shot that deflected off of Marchment’s skate. And while the Leaf’s will be grousing about the officials until game two on Saturday, for the most part Ottawa was controlling the play and were full value for the win.

Taking the opener should give the Sens a giant confidence boost, automatically turning the home ice advantage back over to them. Already Game Two looms as a must win for the Leafs, who will need to get back on their style of play and make Ottawa react to that, rather than trying to meet Ottawa’s speed head on. And of course, the Leafs will have to stay out of the penalty box, as Ottawa showed them it’s hard to score from there and only bad things can happen when you play short handed for a lengthy period of time.

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