Kessel, Kulemin score in shootout, Maple Leafs beat flu-ridden Senators

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kessel, Kulemin give Maple Leafs shootout win

OTTAWA — Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin scored on Toronto’s first two shootout attempts to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 victory over the flu-ridden Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.

Jonas Gustavsson turned aside Ottawa’s two attempts, with Alex Kovalev’s backhander hitting the right post before the Swedish rookie got a glove on Jason Spezza’s shot.

Kessel, who scored his 22nd goal and had another potential goal waved off in the second, beat Pascal Leclaire with Toronto’s first shot in the tiebreaker, and Kulemin ended it when he converted the Maple Leafs’ second attempt.

Gustavsson stopped 22 shots in his first start since playing for Sweden during the Olympics as Toronto ended a four-game losing streak (0-3-1).

Chris Neil scored in the first for Ottawa, which has lost three straight since the Olympic break (0-2-1).

Leclaire made 30 saves. He was pulled 6:23 into the Senators’ 4-1 loss at Carolina on Thursday night after he allowed two goals on five shots.

Daniel Alfredsson and Peter Regin were left out of Ottawa’s flu-ridden lineup. Alfredsson, the Senators’ captain, did not skate with the team earlier in the day. He did not take part in the pregame warmup, which Regin did, though the Danish center was also unable to play because of a virulent flu bug that has stricken the team.

The Senators recalled forward Zack Smith from Binghamton of the AHL. Smith arrived at Scotiabank Place during the first period and was on the Ottawa bench at the start of the second. He played seven shifts overall in the second and third and saw 6 minutes of ice time.

The Maple Leafs lost forwards John Mitchell and Fredrik Sjostrom to upper-body injuries during the game, a chippy fifth encounter this season between the provincial rivals.

Mitchell left and did not return after he was struck on the head by Neil’s shoulder check 14 minutes in. Toronto’s bench became even shorter early in the second when Sjostrom was injured on a hit by Senators defenseman Matt Carkner.

Kessel drew Toronto even 6:50 into the second when he snapped a shot from the right side past Leclaire and inside the left post. He had a potential go-ahead goal waved off at 15:07 after referee Gord Dwyer ruled a Maple Leafs player struck the puck with a high stick before Kessel swept it into the net.

Neil opened the scoring with a power-play goal 17:03 in shortly after his hit on Mitchell initiated hostilities. Though no penalty was called on Neil’s hit, Toronto’s Viktor Stalberg and Senators center Jesse Winchester were sent off for roughing.

Ottawa’s Shean Donovan fought with Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn at 18:05 while Carkner and Colton Orr squared off for the fourth time this season.

Orr claimed his third decision over Carkner, holding up three fingers to the crowd while he skated off the ice.

NOTES: Canadian Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing) and Jennifer Botterill (women’s hockey) were greeted with standing ovations from the capacity crowd of 20,036 when they were introduced to make the ceremonial opening faceoff. … Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson used his timeout after Ottawa’s Chris Phillips was called for tripping 14:11 into the third to set up a brief 5-on-3 advantage for Toronto. … Senators D Filip Kuba missed his second straight game due to a lower-body injury. He was hurt Tuesday night in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers. … Regin, Ryan Shannon and Jarkko Ruutu were ill and missed practice Friday. Several other Senators were believed to have been stricken with the virus. Goalie Brian Elliott was originally expected to start, but dressed as Leclaire’s backup instead.

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