TORONTO – Zack Smith scored the winner as the Ottawa Senators kept their slim playoff hopes alive in Dion Phaneuf’s return to Toronto, defeating the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Saturday.
Smith re-directed a Mark Stone feed past Jonathan Bernier with 2:15 remaining in the third for his 17th of the season.
Ottawa (31-28-7) entered Saturday’s action 12th in the Eastern Conference, seven points out of the final wild card spot.
The Senators have now won three straight against the Maple Leafs, and avoided a third straight loss overall.
Bobby Ryan and Marc Methot had the other Ottawa goals, while Andrew Hammond picked up his fourth win of the season making 41 saves.
Rookies William Nylander and Nikita Soshnikov responded for the Leafs (21-33-10). Bernier stopped 28 shots in the loss.
Phaneuf, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Leafs, was honoured with a video tribute during the first television timeout in the first period.
Moments after the Phaneuf video tribute, the former Leafs captain and Coin Greening, traded for one another on Feb. 9, dropped the gloves.
Toronto led 2-1 after 40 minutes on Soshnikov’s second of the season, but the Sens replied early in the third.
Methot tied the game 2-2 at 2:56 of the third picking up the rebound off of Ryan Dzingel’s shot and beating a screened Bernier for his fourth of the season.
Soshnikov gave Toronto a 2-1 lead, on a power play, at 12:10 of the second beating Hammond short side for his second of the season.
Ryan opened the scoring, beating Bernier high glove side from the slot at 6:06 of the first after Matt Hunwick mishandled the loose puck off a Nazem Kadri faceoff win.
Nylander tied it 1-1 at 9:27 of the opening period picking up the loose puck off a scrambled faceoff win by Brooks Laich, beating Hammond blocker-side for his first career NHL goal. The assist was Laich’s first since being acquired by the Leafs on Feb. 28.
Laich also assisted on Michael Nylander’s final NHL goal on April 5, 2009, a 6-4 Washington Capitals victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
Note: Sens defenceman Mark Borowiecki missed his first game due to a right knee injury suffered on Thursday night. As a result, Patrick Wiercioch returned to Ottawa’s lineup after sitting out five games as a healthy scratch.