#TBT: The Legendary 2002 Playoff Matchup Against Ottawa

On Instagram and elsehwere #TBT (or Throwback Thursday for the uninformed) is a day where users post pictures of themselves from days past, though it seems these days “throwback” can often mean a time period of less than a month. 

On TLN, the new feature of #TBT will showcase a look at highlights (and ocassionally lowlights) of the Leafs’ history. For starters, we’re going to take a look at the 2002 second-round Battle of Ontario playoff matchup against the Ottawa Senators.

The Rundown

The third year in a row these teams met in the playoffs, this series had everything. Bob Cole calling it relatively fresh off the historic Salt Lake City Olympics, Radek Bonk’s mullet before it was a blog, and a provincal rivalry that went the distance. In the 2001 playoffs, the seventh-ranked Leafs swept the second-place Senators in a series where the Senators scored just three goals. Right from the start, the Senators appeared ready to make up for that disappointment.

Game 1: May 2, 2002.

(Full Highlights) (Condensed Highlights)

Hosting the Senators to kick off the series, the Leafs were quite bad this game. Radek Bonk, Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Havlat, Shane Hnidy, and Todd White all scored a goal, while Patrick Lalime notched his fourth shutout of the playoffs in just the second round, which tied an NHL record at the time for most shutouts in a single NHL playoff. 5-0 was the final score. Shayne Corson led Leafs forwards in ice time, with 21:11. No, I don’t know why, either.

1-0 Senators. 

Game 2: May 4, 2002.

(Full Highlights) (Condensed Highlights)

Oh, baby. Game 2. Can you say instant classic? Surprising to some, perhaps, the series was not actually decided after the first game. Toronto looked good early, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first nine minutes of a game on goals from a Travis Green tap-in and Darcy Tucker capitalizing on an a Ottawa defensive zone turnover. Off a draw in the second period, Sami Salo fired a one-timer past Joseph to bring the game within 1. Early in the third period, Mike Fisher caught Joseph napping and fired a quick shot from the boards to tie the game at 2. After sixty minutes, the game headed to the extra frame tied at 2. Overtime solved nothing, so they went for another 20 minutes. The second overtime again solved nothing, so they went to a third one.

Again, the game winning goal was off a rather quick play. Off a faceoff “win” by Robert Reichel in the third OT, Gary Roberts hopped on a loose puck and fired it home to tie up the series. 

Curtis Joseph finished with 54 saves, while Bryan McCabe had 52 minutes of ice time. Fifty-two. That’s four or five full games of ice time for some fourth liners these days.

1-1, headed back to Ottawa.

Game 3: May 6, 2002

(Full Highlights) (Condensed Highlights)

Again a tight affair, Magnus Arvedsson scored the only goal through 40 minutes to give Ottawa the lead. Arvedsson scored again in the third, his second of three career playoff goals. Daniel Alfredsson appeared to put the game out of reach by putting the Senators up 3-0 in with 3:36 left in the third. However, a pair of late goals by Toronto made things interesting, including a goalmouth scramble in the game’s final seconds, but 3-2 ended up being the final score. Both goalies had 26 saves, but Patrick Lalime had a .929 save percentage (28 shots against) while Joseph had a .897 (29 shots against). Numbers are funny sometimes.  2-1 Senators.

Game 4: May 8, 2002

(Full Highlights) (Condensed Highlights)

Wade Redden opened the scoring in the second period on a power play goal. Needing a win to risk falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Leafs relied on a future 20-goal scorer but mostly unproven bottom-six forward in Alyn McCauley. McCauley tapped in a Gary Roberts flick at the puck to tie the game in the second, before scoring his second goal on the power play later in the period by… tapping in a Gary Roberts rebound again. Not identical goals, but similar concepts. McCauley didn’t exactly make the most sense to be on the power play, considering he had just two other power play goals in his four seasons in Toronto, but there’s a first time for everything. 2-1 final score. 

2-2.

Game 5: May 10, 2002

(Full Highlights) (Condensed Highlights

Game 5 was notable not only for the result, but for a rather memorable non-call. Likely the most controversial aspect of the series and definite fuel to the rivalry was the game-winning goal scored by Daniel Alfredsson immediately following his hit on Darcy Tucker.

3-2 Senators, in both the game and the series.

Game 6

(Full Highlights) (Condensed Highlights)

With a chance to finish off the Leafs at home, the Senators… didn’t, though they came close, starting ahead 2-0 in the first and all signs appeared that they would be moving forward in the series. Eventually the beneficiaries of a highly favourable penalty call, the Leafs were awarded a five-minute power play later on in the period, where they scored twice to make it 2-2. Roberts then put the Leafs up 3-2 in the second, before Todd White tied the game at 3 with 24.3 seconds left in the second period for the Senators. In this back and forth affiar, it looked like overtime was again looming. However, that all changed with a poor zone exit that left Alex Mogilny out in front to put the Leafs up for good 4-3 with 15:32 to go in the third. 

3-3, heading into a winner-take all Game 7 at the ACC.

Game 7: May 14, 2002

(Full Highlights(Condensed Highlights)

It’s a tired cliche, but there really is nothing like a Game 7, especially amongst two divisional rivals. For all the negative Game 7 memories that have happened to the Leafs, this serves as a positive one. The first 30 or so minutes of the game were scoreless, before this attempted pass from Alexander Mogilny bounced off Sami Salo’s skate and into the net to make it 1-0 Toronto.

It wasn’t pretty, but that was the series-winning goal, and another big moment from Mogilny. After Curtis Joseph was run over by Todd White, Mogilny scored his second of the night and third goal of the series with just under 15 minutes to go on the delayed penalty call to put the Leafs up 2-0. Bryan McCabe added a third goal late off a slap-shot that went five-hole on Patrick Lalime. Joseph made all 19 saves in the victory, his only shutout of the series. A 3-0 scoreline in an extremely tight game sealed off the series, with the only two. 

4-3 Leafs, final. Three years in a row, playoff series victories over their provincial rivals.

Biggest Moments of Nostalgia

  • Chris Neil and Chris Phillips were playing for the Senators. Oh, they still are? Wow. Neither of them had points in the series in a combined 210 minutes of ice time, being about as relevant to a team’s success back then as they are today.
  • As you might have noticed or remember, Mats Sundin did not play in the series due to injury suffered in Game 3 against the Islanders in the first round. He did return in the Conference Finals against Carolina, ultimately in a losing effort.
  • Zdeno Chara was better known as “big defenceman for the Sens” rather than ‘future Hall of Famer’
  • According to the Calgary Herald, the Senators were wearing hats that said 4/16 on them to symbolize 4 series wins and 16 overall needed for the cup. Unfortunately for them, they were outsted by the actual 416 squad.
  • Redden, Havlat and Hossa were considered “up and coming young stars”
  • Every game was played two games after the previous one. A simpler time.
  • Wade Belak, RIP

5 stars of the series

Three isn’t enough to justify the great performances in the series, so there’s five.

5. Pat Quinn

The Leafs GM/Coach at the time, Quinn assembled and coached one of the most memorable Leafs rosters in history. There’s not much more to say, 

4. Alex Mogilny

Truth be told, if not for his performance in Game 7, Mogilny would likely have been seen as a scapegoat for the series, with two assists to show through the first five games of the series, which led to criticisms from the Toronto media through the first part of the series. Stephen Brunt wrote that “Perhaps Alexander Mogilny could have done it once upon a time, but he’s grown tentative with age.” (Leafs letting golden chance slip away, Globe and Mail, May 8, 2002.) In response to these criticisms, Mogilny answered, “Maybe my name is Mogilny, not Mario.” (Sean Fitz-Gerald, Mogilny missing spring in his step, National Post, May, 8, 2002) Mogilny came through when it mattered though, picking up three points over the final two games to help the Leafs advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

3. Curtis Joseph and Patrick Lalime.

The two had nearly identical stats, with Lalime’s .918 just above Joseph’s .917. Joseph gave up 12 even strength goals and 5 power play markers while Lalime gave up 11 and 5 respectively. Couldn’t have been a much closer series.

2. Daniel Alfredsson

Public Enemy No. 1 of much of Southern Ontario for the better part of two decades, Alfredsson scored the second most goals and points in the series to lead the Senators in scoring. Despite “the hit”, Alfredsson played a very solid series overall.

1. Gary Roberts

At age 35, Roberts scored 5 and added 5 assists to take home the sure series MVP. His 20 % shooting percentage in the series sure helped, but he also managed 25 shots on net in the series. His huge Game 6 performance set up the possibility for Mogilny and Joseph to steal the show in Game 7, and he had points in all six of the final games of the series after getting shut out in Game 1. Can you say sparkplug?

What do you remember most about the series?

(Videos via LeafsVideos/ on YouTube (from CBC/LeafsTV, & Down Goes Brown. Stats via hockey-reference.com)

  • silentbob

    Call me negative, but I remember that Alfredsson hit on Tucker.

    Can’t tell if Tucker sold it a bit when he hit the ice (maybe that’s why it was a non-call?) but it has to be one of the worst non-calls in Leafs history since Alfredsson scores the winner seconds later.

  • MatsSundin#13

    Thanks for putting this together, Adam. Great to remember the squad I grew up loving! So weird to see the ice without the Brodeur-zones. Can’t help but wish the Leafs wore that white and blue combo of jerseys at home still. GLG