Top line helps Maple Leafs close out Ottawa

Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2000

KANATA, Ontario (AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are moving on to the second round of the playoffs because of their stars. The Ottawa Senators aren't for the same reason.

Steve Thomas started a four-goal spurt and assisted on a goal by linemate Mats Sundin as the Leafs downed the Senators 4-2 Monday night.

Toronto won the best-of-seven series 4-2 and will open the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday night at home against the New Jersey Devils.

''That's the line they wanted to shut down and that's the line that got most of our offense,'' Leafs coach Pat Quinn said of his top trio of Thomas, Sundin and Jonas Hoglund, who combined for 10 goals in the series -- as many as the entire Ottawa team.

''They were spectacular.''

Sergei Berezin and Wendel Clark also scored as the Leafs erased a 2-0 Ottawa lead in the second period built on goals by Joe Juneau and Igor Kravchuk.

Thomas jumped on a careless clearing attempt by Ottawa defenseman Sami Salo and scored just 12 seconds after the Senators scored their final goal.

''Obviously, that was big,'' Quinn said. ''They got ahead 2-0 and all of a sudden, bang, we were right back in it. It must have been like a stake in the heart.''

Ottawa coach Jacques Martin blamed the inexperience of his young team.

''There's no doubt that, like in (Game 5), we believed we were in control, but we made mistakes and they capitalized,'' Martin said. ''Their best players really shone and that's what won them the series.

''Our lack of production really hurt us. Ten goals in six games is not going to win enough.''

Much of that had to do with goalie Curtis Joseph, who did not let the Senators get back into the game.

And some had to do with Ottawa's top line -- Radek Bonk, Marian Hossa and Magnus Arvedsson -- failing to score even once in the series.

''If we want to win a series like this, we all have to bury our chances,'' Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. ''They did their best, they just came up short.''

The Senators outshot Toronto 38-24, but their failure to hold the lead resulted in an opening-round elimination for a second year in a row and third time in four seasons.

The team that held the shots advantage lost all six games of the series.

''We played real gritty,'' Joseph said. ''We played tough along the boards.''

A capacity crowd of 18,500 watched in dismay as the Senators became the first team to lose at home in the series.

The Senators, who were without their top scorer, holdout Alexei Yashin, and top defenseman, injured Wade Redden, for the series, slumped to the ice in disappointment when the final horn sounded.

The Leafs also had injuries, including two centers hurt during the series -- Yanic Perreault and Nik Antropov -- neither of whom will be available against the Devils.

''It's been six hard games between two pretty evenly matched teams,'' Sundin said. ''Most of the games could have gone either way.''

Ottawa got the early lead on a rush when Shawn McEachern's shot was kicked out to the high slot, where Juneau swept the puck inside the near post 3:45 into the game.

After failing to score during an abbreviated two-man advantage, Ottawa went ahead 2-0 when Kravchuk's point shot through traffic beat Joseph 3:59 into the second period.

Then Thomas capitalized on Salo's mistake and unleashed a quick drive for his sixth goal of the series.

''It was an unacceptable play,'' said a downcast Salo. ''That shouldn't happen, but today it did.''

A Thomas pass then went off Kravchuk's skate onto the stick of Sundin, breaking in on the left side for a goal into an open side of the net, tying it at 7:16.

And Berezin was allowed to sneak in front of goalie Tom Barrasso and send in a shot to put Toronto ahead 3-2 at 10:40.

A Cory Cross pass went off a series of sticks and skates to Clark, who was parked alone at the side of the Ottawa net. He easily swept the puck in with 1:13 left in the period.



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