Leafs can’t solve Sens in Phaneuf’s return

Senators scorers: Ryan (22), Methot (4), Smith (17)
Leafs scorers: Nylander (1), Soshnikov (2)
Goalies: Hammond (Win), 60:00 minutes, 41 saves, 2 GA, Bernier (Loss), 57:53, 28 saves, 3 GA

After failing to register a win in any of their last four games, the Toronto Maple Leafs hoped they could snap their losing skid during a classic Battle of Ontario that saw them face off against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday evening. The game also marked the return of former Leafs captain, Dion Phaneuf.  The teams last met on February 6, which saw the Leafs suffer a lopsided 6-1 loss in game where Erik Karlsson racked up four assists.

With the first period underway, it seemed as though the Leafs might be in for yet another long night when Bobby Ryan struck first just six minutes into the game on an unassisted goal.  But fortunately for Leafs fans, their team was determined to not let the early goal derail them and William Nylander scored his first career goal to tie it up minutes later.

The game remained tied into the second period, until Zack Smith was sent off for interfering with Jonathan Bernier just past the midway point.  The Leafs took advantage of having the extra man and Nikita Soshnikov netted his second goal of the season, which included a colourful goal celebration.

The Senators were determined to not let their rivals get the best of them. Marc Methot evened the score just before the three-minute mark of the final frame.

As regulation drew to a close, with overtime looming, Zack Smith netted the winning goal, giving his team the 3-2 victory, keeping the Senators slim playoff hopes alive.

Phaneuf, who was emotional during a video montage tribute during the game, spoke to the media about his time with the Leafs.

“It was a big game for us, we needed the points, so I tried to play my emotions off.  But when the fans stood for me after my time here, it was very classy of them and I can’t thank them enough.  Tonight is a night I’ll remember forever.”

The Leafs will host the Buffalo Sabres at the ACC on Monday evening.