A goal by Daniel Alfredsson with two minutes to play in the third period earned the Ottawa Senators a controversial 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
The Senators now return home for Game Six on Sunday when they can wrap up the best-of-seven series and move onto the Conference finals for the first time in club history.
“It was a huge win for us,” said Alfredsson after collecting his sixth goal of the playoffs. “After losing Game Four we knew we could go a lot better and I think we showed that tonight.
“We were playing better, skating better. It was a big win for us.”
With overtime looming, the sellout crowd of 19,499 at the Air Canada Center erupted in boos when Alfredsson rammed Darcy Tucker from behind, sending the Leafs winger head first into the boards.
But with Tucker lying motionless on the ice and the crowd screaming for a penalty that was never called, Alfredsson moved towards the Toronto goal, taking Juha Ylonen’s feed from behind the net and snapping the puck past Curtis Joseph to put Ottawa ahead 3-2.
As the Ottawa captain was being mobbed by his team mates, Toronto fans continued to show their displeasure, littering the ice with garbage, much of it directed at the officials, and causing a delay in the game.
Moments later, with the Leafs having pulled Joseph in favor of the extra attacker, Radek Bonk sealed the win with an empty net goal to trigger another shower of debris.
“You definitely don’t want to lose on a call like that, it was very questionable,” said Toronto defenseman Wade Belak. “It should have been a call but we never got it again.
“It’s been our luck the whole playoffs, it seems every time right to the end we get a call that costs us the game.
Alyn McCauley, who had both Toronto goals in a 2-1 win in Game Four in Ottawa on Wednesday, continued to play a starring role when he leveled the score at 2-2 with seven minutes remaining in the third period.
After Patrick Lalime had made a spectacular pad save on a Gary Roberts backhand, McCauley, who has stepped up to fill the void left by the injury to captain and leading scorer Mats Sundin, pounced on the rebound to slap the puck past the helpless Ottawa netminder.
The Senators drew first blood seven minutes into the opening period when Zdeno Chara spotted Wade Redden unmarked on the left point, the Ottawa defenseman moving in and drilling a slapshot past Joseph.
But with just 17 seconds left in the period, the Leafs tied the contest, Gary Roberts notching his fifth goal of the playoffs when he deflected a pass from McCauley as he charged towards the Ottawa net.
Marian Hossa had the only goal of the second period, restoring Ottawa’s one goal lead when his pass from behind the Maple Leafs goal deflected off the stick of a defenseman and into the Toronto net.