Too little, too late again for Senators

So far this season, the Ottawa Senators have outscored their opponents 8-3 in the third period. Now, if they could just do something about their atrocious play in the opening two periods, they might be on to something.

Too little, too late again for Senators
Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators scores during the shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

TORONTO — So far this season, the Ottawa Senators have outscored their opponents 8-3 in the third period.
Now, if they could just do something about their atrocious play in the opening two periods, they might be on to something.
What looked like an easy Toronto Maple Leafs romp in the Battle of Ontario became a thriller as the Senators staged a wild and crazy third period comeback.
Ultimately, the Maple Leafs won 6-5, but it should have never been so close.
The Maple Leafs entered the third period leading 4-0, were up 5-1 early in the third period and had a 6-4 edge with remaining when Phil Kessel completed his hat trick.
After Stephane Da Costa quickly replied with 1:54 left, it set up a nailbiting finish.
The Senators scored all five goals of their goals in the third period, with Daniel Alfredsson scoring twice and Jason Spezza and Colin Greening adding singles. The goals by Spezza and Alfredsson only eight seconds apart set a new franchise record.
The late push Saturday echoed a similar comeback in Friday’s season opener, when the Senators rallied from a 5-0 deficit before ultimately losing 5-3.
While is a loss is a loss, the back-to-back rallies at least provide the Senators with some positives as they prepare for Tuesday’s home opener against the Minnesota Wild.
For the first two periods, there wasn’t much to be excited about. The Senators looked completely lost in their own end. It was so bad that coach Paul MacLean took starting goaltender Craig Anderson out of his mercy, replacing him with Alex Auld to start the third period.
The Maple Leafs led 2-0 after the first period on goals from Mikhail Grabovski and Kessel’s first of the night and extended the lead to 4-0 in the second on goals from Joffrey Lupul and Kessel’s second.
When down by that count on Friday, coach Paul MacLean called a time out. After trailing by a four-goal deficit Saturday, MacLean lifted Anderson.
At that point, the only thing seemingly in doubt was whether goaltender James Reimer could post his second consecutive shutout to start the season.
Greening ended Reimer’s bid at the 1:42 mark of the final period, but Maple Leafs heavyweight Colton Orr, a scoring lightweight, added to the Senators nightmare by beating Auld only 70 seconds later. Then came the crazy, unpredictable finish.
Through the first two periods, the only fight the Senators won was Chris Neil’s second period punch-up against Luke Schenn. Neil was retaliating for Dion Phaneuf’s questionable open ice hit on Stephane Da Costa early in the second period — NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan will be reviewing it for sure — yet even that was costly. Neil received a healthy 17 minutes in penalties for his actions and when Lupul scored on the resulting four-minute power play it padded the lead to 3-0.

GAME FILE

WHY THEY LOST: Once again a huge deficit buried the Senators. They were down 4-0 and 5-1 thanks to sloppy defensive play. Not even a five-goal third period explosion could get them out of the mess.

STUD: Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs. Kessel registered his first hat trick in Toronto and his final goal was the game winner, a crucial goal to prevent the Maple Leafs from suffering a crushing loss.

DUD: Chris Phillips, Senators. Phillips is off to a rough start in his attempt to rebound from his poor 2010-11 season. He was repeatedly beaten to the puck by Maple Leafs forwards in his own zone. Just like Friday, though, it’s hard to single out only one Senators defenceman for having a rough night.

THE CAPTAIN GOES DOWN WITH THE SHIP: As is custom at Air Canada Centre, Daniel Alfredsson was booed by Maple Leafs faithful every time he touched the puck. He was a non-factor for the first two periods, but put life into the game by scoring two third period goals.

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