Work in Sports
TORONTO (Ticker) -- Steve Thomas must have thought fans were chanting, "Go, Steve, Go."
It actually was "Go, Leafs, Go" but prompted Thomas to score twice, including the game-winner 14:47 into overtime to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
It also gave the Maple Leafs control of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, which they lead three games to two after surviving a fast-paced overtime.
"This would make the top," Thomas said of where this ranks in his career. "This is big. This is the playoffs and we put ourselves in position to win the series."
Game Six is Monday night in Ottawa. The home team has won the first five games in the "Battle of Ontario."
After several scoring chances by both teams in the frenzied extra period, Thomas streaked down the right side and redirected a slick pass from Sergei Berezin from the right faceoff circle and through Tom Barrasso's pads.
"I saw him take off and I just tried to keep up with him," Thomas said. "He fed me with a great pass on my backhand and it went betwen his legs. It's just an unbelievable feeling."
"I picked up the puck in the neutral zone," Berezin said. "I saw Stumpy open, going to the net. I just passed it to him. He's the guy to pass it to. He always scores in overtime."
It was the first overtime playoff goal for Thomas, a 16-year veteran whose 11 regular season overtime goals is the most in NHL history.
Thomas' second goal of the game and NHL playoff-leading fifth brought an eruption from the sellout crowd of 19,373 and a bearhug from Berezin in the left corner.
"It was end-to-end action," Leafs goaltender Curtis Joseph said. "I'm sure it was entertaining for the fans and the players. It was an intense game and a good one to play."
The goal came after several anxious moments at both ends. Just 2:41 before the winning goal, Joseph came out of his net to stop Rob Zamuner's shot from the left side and watched as the rebound hit the top of the net.
Toronto recovered and pressured on an ensuing rush only to be denied by Barrasso, who made several of his 29 saves during the flurry, surviving when the Leafs shot wide toward a vacant net.
Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson then hit the crossbar with 6:52 left in the first overtime.
"Too bad Alfie hit the crossbar in the end," Senators right wing Marian Hossa said. "That was tough, and then after, they get their chance and they score."
Barrasso was sensational in the extra period, making 10 saves, but suffered his third overtime playoff loss in two seasons against Toronto, which beat him and Pittsburgh twice in the East semifinals last season.
Joseph made 37 saves for the Leafs, who won their fourth straight overtime playoff game, overcoming a 39-second, two-man disadvantage midway through the third period.
Joe Juneau scored his first goal of the series for the Senators, who lost their 10th straight road postseason contest.
The Leafs trailed 1-0 and had managed only 16 shots before Thomas responded to the crowd's chants, tying it with 4 1/2 minutes left in regulation when he beat Barrasso with a brilliant slap shot from the left faceoff circle.
Thomas, who has 42 goals in 124 playoff games, picked up a drop pass by Mats Sundin while driving to the top of the left circle and rifled a shot off the goalpost at the the top right corner of the net.
"Mats took it over the blue line and I kind of criss-crossed behind him," Thomas said. "I just shot it on net and it found its way in."
It was only the second shot of the period for Toronto, which went the first 8 1/2 minutes of the third without one.
"They didn't have much life in the third and then they had one great shot and it went in," Juneau said. "We'll just go back home and play the same way and I like our chances."
The Senators' power play continued to let them down, going 0-for-3 to reach 2-for-18 in the series. It failed on a continuous 5:21 advantage in the third that included a 39-second two-man power play.
"(A) 5-on-3 for 38 seconds and the four-minute double-minor, that was the big turning point in the game," Joseph said. "If we had let in a goal there, that would have been it."
Ottawa went on the power play at 8:08 of the period, when Leafs enforcer Tie Domi was called for interference, and picked up a two-man advantage 81 seconds later when Garry Valk was called for a double high-sticking minor.
"We competed hard," Ottawa coach Jacques Martin said. "Our inability to capitalize on the power play swung the momentum to their side."
The Senators opened the scoring 4:36 into the second when Juneau took a cross-ice pass from Andreas Dackell in the right circle and one-timed a shot inside the far post while fading to the boards.
The Leafs were down, but Joseph kept them in it with 12 saves in the second. One of his best came at 6:43 when he stopped Shaun Van Allen on a breakaway.