OTTAWA — Mark Giordano is learning that playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs means having fans everywhere you go.
The noise was deafening as Giordano scored the overtime winner for a 5-4 victory over the Senators in Ottawa Saturday night.
“It was a pretty good crowd for us tonight,” said Giordano. “I thought there were a lot of Leaf fans in the building. Really good atmosphere -- I’ve noticed that since I’ve been here, the atmosphere in away buildings. It’s pretty nice to know that wherever you play, you know you’re going to get that good buzz in the building.”
Giordano has been a nice addition for the Leafs and his teammates appreciate all he has to offer.
“I think he’s a huge part of our team,” said Michael Bunting, who had a goal and an assist. “He’s a veteran and he came in and had that veteran presence right away. He was the captain for a very long time in Calgary and then the captain in Seattle. He carries (himself) like that. He’s a great add and a great guy off the ice, and he’s playing unbelievable for us right now.”
Ottawa had its biggest crowd of the season, but the majority of the 18,655 on hand at Canadian Tire Centre were cheering for the Leafs.
The blue and white faithful had plenty to cheer for as Mitchell Marner scored twice with Kyle Clifford also scoring for Toronto (49-20-6). Erik Kallgren stopped 25 shots.
Tim Stutzle continues to impress in his sophomore season as the 20-year-old scored twice to hit the 20-goal mark for the first time.
Stutzle has six goals and seven assists through his last eight games.
He nearly won it in overtime, but Kallgren was able to make the save.
“He continues to get better,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “He’s playing against the league’s best and he’s not backing down. Again, he might be the best player out there, he’s one of them. There’s certainly some high-end players over there, but Timmy’s really coming.”
Michael Del Zotto and Dylan Gambrell also chipped in for Ottawa (28-40-7). Anton Forsberg made 36 saves.
Stutzle broke a 3-3 tie at the six-minute mark of the third, taking advantage of a terrible giveaway by Ilya lyubushkin to bury his 20th of the season.
Stutzle admitted he relished the challenge of playing the high-octane Leafs.
“(Auston) Matthews and Marner are some of the best players in the league so those are guys I love watching every night and watch the highlights every time and they make so many nice plays together and they play with so much confidence,” said Stutzle. “Those are two guys I try to mold my game after and playing against them I think gives me a huge push.”
The Leafs got off to a slow start, but more than made up for it when it counted.
Marner made it 4-4, scoring his second of the game at the midway mark of the period.
“We didn’t come out the way we wanted to,” admitted Marner. “We knew they were going to come at us fast and try to get behind us. They did a good job of that, but I thought the second period and third period there we kind of just took over and played the game we needed to. And we got the result we wanted.”
Trailing 2-0 to start the second, the Leafs came back to tie things 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Clifford opened the scoring in the frame for Toronto as he tipped Justin Holl’s shot for his first of the season.
Ottawa took a 3-1 lead midway through the second as Austin Watson fired a shot through traffic and Gambrell tipped it past Kallgren. The assist gave Watson his 100th career point in his 400th NHL game.
“When you actually take some time to think about it, it’s pretty emotional for me,” admitted Watson. “This game has given me a life that I don’t know if I deserve, but I’m here anyways. I can’t thank the Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators and the league enough for, you know, it’s allowed me to live out my dreams, but take care of life outside the game as well. So I just have a lot of gratitude today.”
Despite trailing, the Leafs never seemed concerned they wouldn’t be able to get back in control.
“I thought for a bit there we were outworked and outcompeted,” said Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. “From the time they made it 3-1, though, I thought our guys really dug in from that point on and we were really good.”
Toronto made it a one-goal game just over a minute later as Bunting was able to jam home a puck from in close and Marner tied the game late in the period as he one-timed T.J. Brodie’s drop pass from the top of the faceoff circle.
The Senators couldn’t have asked for a better start, jumping out to a 2-0 first-period lead.
On a two-on-zero rush, Brady Tkachuk passed the puck to Stutzle through the slot, who one-timed it home to open scoring.
Del Zotto made it 2-0 late in the period with a shot from the blue line that popped over Timothy Liljegren and in.
NOTES: Ottawa’s Colin White was placed in COVID-19 protocol prior to the game forcing defenceman Victor Mete into action, but as a forward …Mathieu Joseph remains out of the lineup and may not be able to return before the end of the season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2022.