Maple Leafs-Senators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 30, 2011
Clutch scoring and late-game dramatics have the Ottawa Senators on their longest winning streak in two seasons. Another meeting against Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs may be the toughest test yet for the surging Senators. Ottawa attempts to extend its winning streak to six games by quieting the NHL's top scorer and the Maple Leafs in a meeting of provincial rivals in the nation's capital Sunday night. Ottawa (6-5-0) has won five in a row for the first time since a six-game winning streak from March 22-April 1, 2010. The Senators' run has followed a poor 1-5-0 start that included a 6-5 loss at Toronto (7-2-1) on Oct. 8, during which Ottawa's rally fell short despite scoring five times in the third. Third-period scoring has played a major part in the Senators' winning streak, as they've totaled nine of their 18 goals in that stanza. They netted three in Sunday's 5-4 come-from-behind shootout victory on the road against the New York Rangers. Those late-game heroics have been more pronounced at home, where Ottawa's last two games there weren't decided until the final seconds. Nick Foligno's tally with 2.5 seconds left in regulation provided the difference in a 4-3 win over Florida on Thursday after the Senators gave up the tying goal with 47.1 to play. "We've come back a few times this season and it shows strength in our team," said Michalek, who completed the rally from a three-goal deficit against the Rangers by scoring with 2:50 left in regulation before netting the only goal in the shootout. Michalek has four goals and four assists in five games, with one of his tallies coming with 4.7 seconds to play in regulation to secure a 4-3 win over Columbus on Oct. 22. The left wing, though, has just three assists in his last 10 meetings with Toronto (7-2-1), and the Senators have dropped four of the last five matchups at Scotiabank Place. Kessel leads the league with 10 goals and 18 points, and has dominated the Senators in his past 18 games. The right wing has totaled 17 goals and eight assists in those meetings, including a hat trick with an assist earlier this month. Kessel netted the go-ahead goal midway through the third of a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. Captain Dion Phaneuf added two assists against the Penguins and is having a major influence on the Leafs' early season success, which has them atop the Northeast Division. He's among the top-scoring defensemen with 11 points, and owns a plus-7 rating to rank among the league leaders after turning in a minus-2 effort last season. "Personally, I think by a country mile he's the best defenseman in the league," coach Ron Wilson said. "It's not even close right now. His numbers show that - his plus-minus, we chart scoring chances and his numbers are off the chart there. I think he's comfortable in his own skin, he's comfortable being the captain and he's healthy." While Kessel and Phaneuf are leading Toronto, Jason Spezza tops Ottawa with 15 points, getting 11 with six goals in the past five games. He found the net twice in the third period Sunday. The center had one goal and one assist against the Leafs earlier this month.
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