Playing mainly for pride, the Toronto Maple Leafs made quick work of their provincial rivals on Tuesday night.
Phil Kessel buried his 26th goal and John Mitchell and Mikhail Grabovski scored 19 seconds apart in the second period, leading Toronto to a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The Maple Leafs won four of six against the Senators to claim the season series.
Kessel beat Brian Elliott for his fourth goal in four games 11:20 in. Mitchell made it 2-0 when he scored 4:33 into the second. His goal had not even been announced when Grabovski increased the lead to 3-0 at 4:52.
Jonas Gustavsson stopped 30 shots for the Maple Leafs, who are last overall in the Eastern Conference with 60 points but have won four of five.
“Everyone cares about everyone here,” Kessel said. “We’re playing for each other in here and we’re trying to get some wins.”
Rickard Wallin scored into an empty net for the Maple Leafs, who began their current 5-2 run with a 2-1 shootout win in Ottawa on March 6.
“When we were up three goals, I know I can let one in and we’re still going to win the game so that feels good and of course that helps me a lot, too,” said Gustavsson, who has won four in a row, a personal streak that began with Toronto’s win 10 days earlier at Scotiabank Place.
Andy Sutton scored his first Ottawa goal late in the second. Elliott stopped 26 shots for the Senators, who lost their third in a row. Ottawa, which lost its last two games of a three-game trip to western Canada, has gone 1-5-1 since the Olympic break.
“I think we are struggling with handling the puck and making good passes and managing the puck,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “It seems like when we get it we want to get rid of it right away instead of sometimes settling down and controlling the play. We’re stretching at times and putting ourselves in difficult spots.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Montreal 3 N.Y. Rangers 1; N.Y. Islanders 5 Vancouver 2; Minnesota 4 Edmonton 2; Boston 5 Carolina 2; Nashville 4 Philadelphia 3 (SO); Atlanta 4 Buffalo 3; Washington 7 Florida 3; Phoenix 2 Tampa Bay 1; Colorado 5 St. Louis 3; and Dallas 8 San Jose 2.
At Ottawa, the Senators remain in fifth place overall in the East with 79 points, though Montreal is now just one point back following the Canadiens’ 3-1 road win over the New York Rangers.
Nick Foligno and Chris Campoli both returned to the Senators’ lineup. Foligno missed 13 games with a broken right leg, while Campoli was out for eight games because of a sprained ligament in his left knee.
Kessel teamed up with linemates Tyler Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin to open the scoring. Kulemin took Bozak’s pass in his own zone and rushed the puck to the left side of Ottawa’s zone before feeding to the slot, where Kessel snapped a shot into the top right corner.
Mitchell made it 2-0 in the second when he sped past Sutton’s attempt to check him into the boards along the right side before beating Elliott with a wrist shot at 4:33.
The Maple Leafs increased their lead to 3-0 when Grabovski scored his second goal in his last three games. Grabovski he finished off Luca Caputi’s centring pass at 4:52 after the Toronto rookie stripped the puck off Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson behind the net.
“You want to be relentless, right?” Mitchell said. “Just because you get up 2-0 doesn’t mean you stop. We wanted to keep going and keep going.”
Gustavsson made a fine save on Chris Kelly’s short-handed chance from the slot midway through the second but lost his shutout bid late in the middle period.
Sutton, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders on Mar. 2, scored his fifth goal of the season – his first in six games with the Senators – with 1:34 left in the second to draw Ottawa within two.
“You’ve got to give Toronto credit, they pushed us hard,” said Senators coach Cory Clouston. “But to me, the biggest concern is in the offensive zone. We’ve just got to start burying our chances.”
Canadiens 3 Rangers 1
At New York, Sergei Kostitsyn snapped a third-period tie with a deflected goal and Montreal won its sixth straight.
Kostitsyn nudged the puck in front and was rewarded when it caromed in off the skate of Rangers forward Artem Anisimov at 5:59. Frustrated goalie Henrik Lundqvist bent over backward and stared at the ceiling in disgust.
Montreal’s winning streak is its longest since an eight-game spurt in 2006. The Canadiens built their playoff cushion over the ninth-place Rangers to seven points. New York dropped three points behind Boston and the Eastern Conference’s post-season cutoff.
Islanders 5 Canucks 2
At Vancouver, John Tavares broke out of a scoring slump with two goals and three assists, and Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves to lead the New York Islanders.
Dylan Reese, Matt Moulson and Freddy Meyer also scored for the Islanders.
Kyle Wellwood and Alex Burrows had the Canucks’ goals.
Wild 4 Oilers 2
At St. Paul, Minn., Chuck Kobasew scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and the Wild beat Edmonton for the 13th straight time at home.
Andrew Ebbett, Antti Miettinen and Martin Havlat also scored for the Wild, winners of three straight overall.
Bruins 5 Hurricanes 2
At Raleigh, N.C., Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and David Krejci scored third-period goals to help Boston maintain eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a victory over the Hurricanes.
Predators 4 Flyers 3 (SO)
At Nashille, Tenn., Martin Erat scored the only goal of the shootout to lead the Predators past Philadelphia.
Thrashers 4 Sabres 3
At Atlanta, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller was pulled after giving up three goals in the first six minutes and Jim Slater’s third-period goal gave the Thrashers a win.
Capitals 7 Panthers 3
At Sunrise, Fla., Brooks Laich scored twice and five other Washington players had goals to lift the short-handed Capitals past the Panthers.
Coyotes 2 Lightning 1
At Tampa, Fla., Vernon Fiddler and Matthew Lombardi scored in a two-minute span midway through the first period, Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 27 shots and Phoenix tied a franchise record with its 43 victory.
Avalanche 5 Blues 3
At St. Louis, Peter Mueller scored and Paul Stastny had his fifth goal in three games to help Colorado sweep the season series against the Blues.
Stars 8 Sharks 2
At Dallas, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow each scored twice, including short-handed goals in the third period, Kari Lehtonen made 44 saves in his second start of the season, and the Stars boosted their fading playoff chances.