Leafs win Game 7 to advance to Eastern Conference finals

Seventh heaven

Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2002

TORONTO -- The resilient Toronto Maple Leafs keep advancing in the playoffs because Alexander Mogilny continues to score big goals in Game 7s.

Mogilny was at it again Tuesday night, scoring twice in a 3-0 victory over Ottawa that advanced the Maple Leafs to the Eastern Conference finals.

Curtis Joseph stopped 19 shots and Bryan McCabe also scored for the Leafs, who will face the Hurricanes in a best-of-seven series that opens at Carolina on Thursday.

It was the second straight seven-game series' victory for Toronto, which eliminated the New York Islanders with a 4-2 Game 7 win in the opening round. And it's the second straight Game 7 in which Mogilny has scored twice.

While the Air Canada Centre was still buzzing with ''Go Leafs Go'' chants, Mogilny almost sounded subdued.

''I don't understand what the fuss is all about,'' Mogilny said. ''There's a bigger hurdle coming up. I don't know why everybody's so excited. The last time I checked you have to win four series.''

Perhaps, the excitement comes because almost everyone counted out the banged-up and weary Maple Leafs, who were missing six regulars, including captain Mats Sundin (broken wrist), and were playing their 12th game in 22 days.

''Whenever we face adversity, we don't pack it in at all,'' center Alyn McCauley said. ''It seems the longer the series goes on, the longer the game goes on, the stronger we get. I don't know if that's the team character or conditioning, but it seems that way.

''Maybe we're just the marathon runners and not the sprint runners.''

The same cannot be said about the Senators, who continued to live down to their reputation of folding under playoff pressure, blowing a 3-2 series advantage, and squandering leads in its three previous games -- including a 2-0 lead in an eventual 4-3 loss in Game 6 on Sunday.

This is also a Senators franchise that has never advanced past the second round, dropped to 0-2 in Game 7s, and has now been eliminated in three straight playoffs by Toronto.

''Failure to get it done. We had them on the ropes a few times,'' Ottawa defenseman Wade Redden said. ''You can look back at a number of things throughout the series. We had them 2-1 at home, and Game 6 at home, and we couldn't. ...''

Redden's voice then trailed off.

''When we've got them by the throat, we've got to make sure we get them down,'' he said.

Mogilny opened the scoring with a power-play goal 11:49 into the second period.

Waiting with the puck in the right corner, Mogilny attempted to thread a pass through the middle to McCabe, who was sneaking in from the point. Instead, Mogilny's pass hit the side of Ottawa defender Sami Salo's skate, and bounced in.

Mogilny made it 2-0, scoring on a delayed penalty 5:14 into the third period. After Ottawa's Todd White bowled over Joseph, Tomas Kaberle led a rush up the right side.

Kaberle's cross-ice pass found Mogilny, who lifted a shot over diving Ottawa goalie Patrick Lalime.

McCabe sealed the win with 5:56 left.

The Senators displayed little of the poise and jump they had in the previous six games. Ottawa came out tentatively, and then proved even flatter in the second period when the Senators set a franchise playoff low in being limited to one shot on goal.

And that wasn't much of a shot when Salo's wrister from the right boards was easily stopped by Joseph with 1:02 left in the period.

The one shot allowed matched a Maple Leafs playoff record set against Los Angeles on May 17, 1993.

Ottawa finally started to press early in the third period, but were then foiled by Joseph, who recorded his second shutout of the postseason and 14th of his career, tying Jacques Plante for third on the all-time list.

Joseph's best stops came 90 seconds into the third period, when he got his right pad on Salo's shot from the point that was deflected in front. Seconds later, Joseph stopped another shot by Salo, and covered up the puck before Shawn McEachern could jam in the rebound.

Mogilny, who also scored the game-winner in Game 6, now has five goals in games when Toronto faces elimination this postseason.

And yet he still refused to be referred to as a clutch performer.

''I never was,'' Mogilny said, when asked if he considered himself a clutch player. ''I'm just a hockey player. I'm not Steve Yzerman or Mario Lemieux. I'm Alex Mogilny. ... I accept who I am and I'm just trying to be part of the group.''

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