TORONTO (AP) -Looking like a team growing more confident with each game, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Monday night, earning their first victory in three meetings this season with their provincial rival.
It was Toronto's fourth consecutive victory at home after the Maple Leafs won just two of their first 12 games at Air Canada Center.
Francois Beauchemin scored 6 minutes into the third period to break the final tie and Phil Kessel and Jason Blake also scored for Toronto.
While Vesa Toskala wasn't exactly swarmed by the Senators, he made 22 saves in continuing a recent stretch of strong play. According to Leafs coach Ron Wilson, timely stops like the one Toskala made to stuff Milan Michalek early in the game on a partial breakaway make all the difference.
``Vesa has done a great job recently and before Vesa, Jonas (Gustavsson) was making some big saves,' Wilson said. ``It's huge when you start to trust your goaltender, other things start to fall into place, you get more offensive opportunities. The defensemen aren't worried about making mistakes and, thereby, don't make as many, generally.'
Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza had goals for Ottawa.
Fisher's tied the game at 1 and Kessel gave Toronto the lead back 59 seconds later.
``That's another difference from the first month or so, the fact we have a difference-maker, a pure sniper,' Wilson said of Kessel, who played his first game as a Leaf in early November. ``We have a really hard-working group that some nights might not finish and Phil, if he gets an opportunity like that, more often than not will and it makes the rest of the guys on the team confident.'
The game-winner belonged to Beauchemin, a member of Toronto's defense corps that really helped its goalie.
``There were a couple odd-man rushes in the second, but other than that it was a pretty easy game for me,' Toskala said. ``Only a couple saves in the third. I think the boys played well.'
Ottawa appeared to tie the game with 35 seconds left, but the referees waved off the goal when it was determined Jesse Winchester kicked the puck into the net. Video replay confirmed the decision.
``The referee called it right away, so I thought he (kicked) it, but those plays are always nervous (until it's official),' Beauchemin said.
Spezza pulled the Senators into the 2-2 tie with a power-play goal 1:12 into the third period. The goal was Spezza's fifth of the season and only his second on the road.
Blake opened the scoring when he tore down the right side and slid a weak backhander through Brian Elliott 2:15 into the period. Fisher whacked home a loose puck that Tomas Kaberle failed to clear from the side of the Toronto goal. The Leafs were back in the lead just 59 seconds later when Kessel scored after taking a great feed from Alexei Ponikarovsky.
NOTES: Toronto F Mikhail Grabovski had his six-game point streak snapped. ... Toronto tough guy Colton Orr left the game and did not return after taking some punches from Matt Carkner during a second-period fight. Wilson said Orr's eye closed, but he expects he won't miss any time. ... Leafs D Garnet Exelby, who had one point coming into the game, picked up two assists. ... Leafs D Luke Schenn was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. ... Elliott made his 12th straight start as Pascal Leclaire continues to nurse a fractured cheekbone.
The Associated Press News Service
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