OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — After a week in which they lost three of four, the Toronto Maple Leafs know they need to turn things around with just 10 games remaining in the regular season.
Magnus Paajarvi scored twice to lead the last-place Ottawa Senators to a 6-2 win over the slumping Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Toronto has dropped four points behind Boston for second place in the Atlantic Division.
“A little adversity is not a bad thing,” Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly said. “We believe in ourselves, we believe in the group, we believe in the structure and right now it’s just not going well for us. It’s important that we look at one another, we discuss what we can do better and get it fixed.”
Cody Ceci, Brian Gibbons, Anthony Duclair and Oscar Lindberg also scored for Ottawa. Anders Nilsson made 35 saves.
“We had four lines that all played good,” Senators interim coach Marc Crawford said. “Our leaders were really good. If you look at the guys that wear ‘A’s on the team, they were all terrific.”
Rielly and John Tavares scored for the Maple Leafs, and Garret Sparks stopped 38 shots.
Sparks was clearly frustrated and feels some of his teammates need to step up.
“We need more emotion,” Sparks said. “I’m an emotional player. I need more emotion. We need more emotion from everybody. We need people to get angry. We need people to step up and be mad and take it personally.”
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said the team has to simplify things.
“Being a pro is getting ready each and every day and doing your part,” he said. “So if you’re (Sparks), your job is to stop the puck and if you’re a D-man it’s to move the puck and keep it out so everyone just do your own job and we’ll be fine.”
The Maple Leafs should have felt right at home at the Canadian Tire Centre with most of a season-high crowd of 18,607 cheering for them.
“We talked about it a bit before and we knew there would be a lot of Leafs fans since they’re having a good season and it’s their first time playing here in Ottawa this year,” Nilsson said. “It was definitely a new experience for me seeing so many away fans from the visiting team in your home barn.”
Trailing 4-1 to start the third, Toronto caught a break when both Zack Smith and Mark Borowiecki took minor penalties, giving the Leafs a 2-minute, two-man advantage. Tavares managed to score to cut the lead in half at 5:13, with just 14 seconds remaining on the power play.
It was his Tavares’ 40th, extending his career high, but he admitted it was hard to feel good about the accomplishment with the way things are going right now.
“We have high expectations for ourselves and we know the level we’re playing at right now isn’t consistent enough and has to be better,” Tavares said. “All we can do is continue to push forward and stick together and work our way out of it. That’s the only way we’re going to get to where we want to get to.”
Ottawa regained its three-goal lead as Duclair tracked a shot off the back boards and slid it past Sparks at 8:36.
Lindberg capped the scoring with 5:39 left.
Ceci got the Senators on the scoreboard first with his sixth of the season 6:36 into the game. Christian Wolanin saw Ceci trailing and he wristed a shot past Sparks from the circle. Ottawa-born rookie Max Veronneau picked up his first NHL point on the play in his second game.
The Senators took control in the second period.
Gibbons jumped on Dylan DeMelo’s rebound and went to his backhand as he fell to make it 2-0 at 6:48 of the middle period.
Rielly cut Toronto’s deficit in half as he put a shot over Nilsson’s right shoulder for his 20th with 7:27 left.
Paajarvi scored his first of two goals on a wrist shot off a pass from Rudolfs Balcers with 6:09 remaining in the second. Paajarvi then made it 4-1 with a wrist shot past Sparks for his ninth with 1:10 to go.
“We capitalized on two turnovers and that’s what we wanted,” Paajarvi said of his two goals. “Two nice passes from Balcers and Smith and I tried to pick corners and it worked.”
NOTES: Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan played his 800th NHL career game, while DeMelo played in his 200th. … Senators F Colin White missed his third straight game with a neck injury. … Nic Petan and Igor Ozhiganov were out for Toronto.
Maple Leafs: At Nashville on Tuesday night.
Senators: At Vancouver on Wednesday night to open a three-game trip to western Canada.
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