Top Ten Moments in the Leafs/Sens Rivalry

On Saturday night, the rivalry between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs opens a new chapter in the 2010-11 season.

Since the Leafs and Sens became division rivals in 1998, the teams have played many heated regular season match-ups and have met four times in the playoffs, with the blue-and-white coming out on top in each series.

Here are the 10 most memorable moments in the Leafs/Sens rivalry:

10. March 4, 2003 – Tucker goes after Senators bench

Darcy Tucker was one of the most hated players in Ottawa during battles between the two teams because of his physical play.

In a regular season meeting in 2003, Tucker completely lost control, going after Chris Neil of the Senators, who was sitting on the bench.

The Leafs were undisciplined the entire night, and the Senators built a 4-1 lead, with all four goals scored on the power play.

The Tucker incident occurred in the third period, creating a line brawl at Ottawa’s bench.

Leafs coach Pat Quinn even got into the act, banging a stick on the glass separating the two benches.

9. January 8, 2004 – Alfredsson mocks Sundin in Senators’ rout

With Mats Sundin out of the line-up after being suspended for throwing his broken stick into the crowd, Ottawa had little trouble defeating the Leafs 7-1.

With the win already well in hand, Alfredsson broke his stick on a one-timer attempt and playfully pretended to throw the broken shaft into the crowd, drawing the ire of the Leafs bench.

“If you’re going to try and show somebody up, you better be ready to pay the price down the line,” Quinn told reporters following the game.

8. February 5, 2004 – Sens suffer from flu, blow four goal lead

The Leafs and Senators met for the second game in a week, with the Sens under heat for a big loss in the first meeting.

Ottawa took a 4-0 lead in front of its (mostly) home crowd, but many of its players were suffering from the flu and began to slow down.

The Leafs were able to score three goals in the second period, and put pressure on the Senators in the third.

Sundin tied it up with only a few minutes remaining, and Owen Nolan scored the overtime winner with 31 seconds left.

The overtime hero showed no sympathy for his flu-ridden opponents.

“I don’t care,” the winger told reporters after the game. “We’re tired, too, and we battled back and we were down by four. I’m sure they have their excuses ready to go.”

7. Game 5, 2000 Eastern Conference quarterfinals

In the first-ever playoff meeting between the two rivals, both teams won their first two games at home, setting the stage for an important game five in Toronto.

Joe Juneau scored in the first period to give the Senators a 1-0 lead that they were able to hold late into the third period.

Leaf winger Garry Valk was assessed a double-minor penalty for high-sticking, but Ottawa did not threaten to extend its lead.

Moments after the penalty was killed, Steve Thomas took a drop pass from Sundin and wired a shot past Tom Barrasso to force overtime.

After a flurry of chances in the extra frame, featuring terrific saves from Barrasso and Curtis Joseph, the Leafs broke out of their zone on a two-on-one rush.

Sergei Berezin surprised everyone in the Air Canada Centre, including Barrasso, by passing to Thomas, who tapped a backhand into a gaping net, giving the Leafs a 3-2 series lead.

Toronto would go on to win game six in Ottawa and win the series 4-2.

6. Game 3, 2001 Eastern Conference quarterfinals

Heading into game three, the Senators were still looking for their first goal of the series.

Sundin and Nik Antropov put Toronto out to a 2-0 lead, and Joseph looked unbeatable again late in the third period.

However, Ottawa showed some life in the last five minutes of the game, and goals by Marian Hossa and Alfredsson forced overtime.

Unheralded defenceman Cory Cross scored the overtime winner for Toronto, after Patrick Lalime gave a huge rebound off an Antropov wrist shot.

The Leafs won game four, completing the sweep.

5. Game 2, 2002 Eastern Conference semi-finals

Joseph was one of the main reasons for the Leafs’ success between 1998-2002, but after looking shaky in their first round victory over the New York Islanders, and a 5-0 loss in game one against Ottawa, the star netminder was called out in the media.

He responded by coming up with his best performance of the series, as the Leafs won game two 3-2 in triple overtime on a goal by Gary Roberts.

The goaltender stopped 54 shots on the night, none more important than the two break-away saves he made against Hossa in the third overtime period, setting the stage for the Roberts game winner.

Looking back, it was another example of the Senators’ inability to take control of a series against Toronto, as the Leafs would have been in tough to come back had they gone to Ottawa down 2-0.

4. Game 1, 2001 Eastern Conference quarterfinals

After losing to the Leafs in 2000, the Senators seemed poised to exact revenge in the 2001 playoff re-match after a division championship and five regular season victories against Toronto in as many games.

In game one at the Corel Centre in Ottawa, goalies Joseph and Lalime were both spectacular, and the game was scoreless heading into overtime.

Sundin, who had been criticized throughout the regular season as his team slipped down the standings, then blasted a slap shot from just inside the Senators’ blue-line that went off the post and in.

The Leafs grabbed momentum from the shocking road victory, and the Senators mustered only three goals against Joseph in the four-game sweep.

3. Game 6 – 2002 Eastern Conference semi-finals

Although the Leafs had home-ice advantage entering the third post-season battle between the provincial rivals, the Senators were considered the favourites as Toronto’s line-up was decimated by injuries.

Sundin, Dmitry Yushkevich, Mikael Renberg, Darcy Tucker and several others were not available to the Leafs, and the Senators entered game six poised to exercise their post-season demons against Toronto.

Ottawa was dominant early in the game, getting off to a 2-0 lead on goals by Hossa and Alfredsson, but a major penalty assessed to defenceman Ricard Persson for a hit from behind allowed Toronto to get back into the game.

Bryan McCabe and Roberts scored power-play goals to tie the game heading into the second period.

After Roberts scored his second of the night and the Senators’ Todd White tied the game, Alexander Mogilny gave the Leafs a 4-3 lead in the third period.

The Leafs hung on for the win, blocking many shots in front of Joseph in the dying moments of the game.

Toronto would win the deciding game seven, 3-0.

2. Game 5, 2002 Eastern Conference semi-finals

Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson is booed every time he touches the puck when Ottawa meets Toronto, and it was game five of the 2002 playoffs that started it.

With the game tied at two late in the game, Alfredsson hit Tucker into the boards, skated to the front of the net, and scored the game-winning goal as the Leaf winger laid injured on the ice.

The Leafs were outraged that Alfredsson was not assessed a penalty for a hit from behind, but there was no call on the play, and the Senators took a 3-2 series lead.

There is no incident between the Leafs and Sens that will create more of a debate between fans.

Leafs supporters will argue that Ottawa got away with one, mainly because the Senators had a reputation for not being a tough team. Fans in Ottawa counter that it was a clean hit, or that Tucker, who had a league-wide reputation for diving, was embellishing the hit.

1. Game 7, 2004 Eastern Conference quarterfinals

In the four playoff match-ups between Ottawa and Toronto, goaltending was the difference in Toronto coming out on top.

Whether it was Joseph between 2000-02, or Ed Belfour in 2004, the Leafs’ netminders always came up with the key save.

This fact was accentuated in game seven of the 2004 series, when Lalime allowed two weak goals in what turned out to be his final appearance in a Senators uniform.

Chad Kilger opened the scoring for the Leafs in the first period, and moments later Joe Nieuwendyk sent a soft wrist shot from the face-off circle that eluded Lalime.

The Senators couldn’t score against Belfour in the Leafs’ three previous victories, and a 2-0 lead by the Leafs seemed insurmountable.

With under a minute left in the first, Nieuwendyk broke down the left wing again, and scored in approximately the same spot, this time beating Lalime through the five-hole.

When the two teams came out to play the second frame, Lalime was replaced by backup goalie Martin Prusek, but the damage was done. The Leafs would win the deciding game 4-1 in the last post-season meeting between the two teams.