The Ottawa Senators may not have won much this year, but they have won the Battle of Ontario. The Senators jumped on a couple of Toronto misses, converted them into second-period goals, and went on to beat the Maple Leafs 4-2 on Saturday night. After holding on for a 2-1 lead in the second period and a 3-0 lead at the end of the third period, the Ottawa Senators won their second consecutive game in Toronto and won for the first time this season.
Playing their second game in as many nights, the Senators got into trouble early against the Leafs, who jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period. The two teams traveled to Toronto, where the Senators lost 3-0. In the third period, however, they were the better team, dominating most of the games and outscoring Ottawa 30-16 over the two periods.
It was the first time an Ontario team had failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs since the Senators joined the NHL in 1992. In the 2013-14 season, the Ontario teams missed the playoffs for the second time in three years and for the first time since 2010-11.
The Toronto Maple Leafs also missed the playoffs and finished last in the Eastern Conference with 68 points. They beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 in Buffalo on Wednesday night before traveling to Toronto to train at the Air Canada Centre before heading to a Toronto Blue Jays game. On Thursday, they played in front of their home fans for the first time in more than a year as they recorded their first win of the season against the BuffaloSabres.
The two teams were very even, and the Maple Leafs managed to win the second-round series in seven games. The Leafs would win this series, but not without a controversial hit from the Senators. Sources: 5, 10
The Senators won Game 1 on the road, but the Maple Leafs responded with two straight wins to take a 2-1 lead. The Senators also boast one of the best regular-season records of any team in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has won four consecutive playoff series against the Ontario counterparts and currently boasts a 3-0-2 record against the Ottawa Senators and a 1-3 record in playoff games. In all their playoff matchups, the Leafs have a record of 16-8-4 against them and have won every series between the two teams.
Both cities have a history of Stanley Cup winners, having met twice in the playoffs, with the Ottawa Senators defeating the Toronto Marlboros. The rivalry reached new heights when the teams met in 2011, when the Maple Leafs dispatched the Senators in six games, the first playoff series in franchise history.
Things then began to unravel for Toronto, and the Sens and Leafs surprised many when Ottawa finished second in the East while Toronto clinched the second wild-card spot for the playoffs. The two sides met again in 2004, with the Leafs winning the quarterfinals in seven games in 2004. The two teams nearly met again during the playoffs in 2005-06, but the Maple Leafs missed out on qualification by two points. They would meet again the following year, this time in 2010-11, when Ottawa advanced to the Eastern Conference finals despite being second in the East behind the New York Rangers.
The sporting rivalry between Toronto and Ottawa has continued since then, however, and as the standings have dropped, so has interest in the already-tedious rivalry. When both teams reach the playoffs and play against each other, the rivalries in hockey become so much more special, but when they don't, as in 2010-11 and 2011-12, interest wanes.
If Ottawa faced Washington in the first round of the playoffs, that would have made a big difference. The Leafs would have only had to take on Ottawa instead if they wanted to, but that wouldn't be the biggest difference since Ottawa would have gone and crossover with Washington, which faced off against the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals in the first-round playoffs.
The Sens-Leafs feud returned when the Senators returned to the NHL in 1992, and the Sens lost to them in the first round of the 2000 playoffs. The feud between the Sens and Leafs returned when they met again in 2006, but the Leafs swept them 3-1 in a series in which the Senators were heavily favored. This will be the third time The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators have played each other, with opening night on October 2 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, It was the second game of a back-and-forth series between the two teams. After that, they will take on the Canadiens in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on November 5 in Montreal.
Whenever these two teams cross paths, there is an all-out war that creates playoff vibes at ScotiaBank Place and the Air Canada Centre. The clash is remembered as one of the most controversial games in NHL history, as both teams were contenders whenever the Bruins and Habs met. The crushing of players like Patrick Kane, David Krejci, Alex Ovechkin and David Backes led to a game that was more entertaining to watch than playoff hockey.