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Toronto 2, Ottawa 1
Posted: Saturday February 15, 2003 11:24 PM
Ottawa Senators
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Toronto Maple Leafs
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TORONTO (Ticker) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs can be forgiven for thinking this was a playoff game.

With Gary Roberts back in the lineup for the first time since the Eastern Conference finals, the Maple Leafs defeated the Ottawa Senators, 2-1, on Jonas Hoglund's goal with 44 seconds remaining.

Roberts underwent offseason surgery on both shoulders after helping Toronto eliminate Ottawa from the playoffs for the third straight year. He missed 57 games but started this nationally televised contest with familiar linemates Mats Sundin and Alexander Mogilny.

"He's the same Gary we've known here," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "He was very intense. And you know wherever the puck is, he's going and he's going to land there."

"I just got in the right position a couple of times, threw a few checks," Roberts said. "One on (Chris) Phillips, I ended up head-first into the boards. Hopefully, I'm going to get better as I move along here."

Roberts' line helped connect for the Maple Leafs' first goal as defenseman Robert Svehla broke a scoreless deadlock 13:32 into the second period.

But All-Star defenseman Zdeno Chara tied it on the power play at 6:33 of the third and the game appeared headed to overtime.

That was before Senators defenseman Shane Hnidy coughed up the puck outside his own blue line and Toronto came in 3-on-1. Mikael Renberg carried down the left side and reached the bottom of the faceoff circle before flinging a pass in front to Hoglund, who tapped it past Patrick Lalime for his 11th goal.

"When Renny got it, I saw we had a 2-on-1. And he made a perfect pass to me," Hoglund said. "I just got my stick on it and it went in."

"We battled back, got the tying goal, and we just gave it to them," said Lalime, who made 23 saves. "We battled back for nothing."

It was the second game-winner for Hoglund, who had just one goal in his previous 16 games.

"It was more like a playoff game, tight-checking and not a lot of scoring chances," the Swedish winger said.

"You know it's a big rivalry," Ottawa rookie Jason Spezza said. "I really enjoyed playing this game. You've got to play hard, and that's the way hockey should be played. This was a good taste of how playoff hockey is going to be."

Lalime kept the game scoreless early, sliding to stop Alyn McCauley alone in the low slot 3 1/2 minutes into the first period and denying Mogilny and Robert Reichel on partial breakaways.

The All-Star goalie also reached up to snare Renberg's shot during a power play midway through the second. But Lalime had little chance on Svehla's fifth goal.

Sundin centered from behind the net to Svehla, who was unchecked in the slot and whacked a shot by Lalime for his fifth goal of the season and second in three games.

It ended Lalime's latest shutout streak at 175 minutes, 14 seconds.

"You know it's not going to last forever," he said. "You just to out there, you want to win the game. That's the most important thing."

Ottawa failed to score on a 38-second two-man advantage in the third period but still was on the power play when Chara tied it.

Marian Hossa centered from the right side of the net and the 6-9 Chara deflected it past goalie Ed Belfour for his sixth goal.

But Hnidy's miscue helped Toronto climb within 11 points of first-place Ottawa in the Northeast Division.

"It's within our division, it's a big game," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We knew we could kind of put them away with a win tonight."