Senators veto Maple Leafs’ playoff-clinching plan

With the playoffs just over a week away, the Toronto Maple Leafs know they’re running out of time to clean up their game.

The Leafs missed a chance to clinch a playoff spot after falling 4-2 to the last-place Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. It was Toronto’s second loss in the nation’s capital in two weeks and continued a run of inconsistency for the club.

“I thought we had lots of looks, lots of opportunities and did lots of good things,” said Toronto’s Mike Babcock. “In the end, we didn’t finish around their net enough.”

The Senators’ game operations staff appeared to troll their provincial rivals in the final minute, playing the Leafs’ goal song — “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates — as Ottawa put the final touches on a victory.

The Leafs did get a key player back as defenceman Travis Dermott returned to the Toronto lineup after missing 14 games with a shoulder injury.

WATCH | Last-place Senators double up Leafs: 

Anthony Duclair had a pair of goals as the Ottawa Senators beat the Maple Leafs 4-2, temporarily preventing Toronto from clinching a playoff spot. 1:38

But the Leafs fell to 3-5-2 in their past 10 games as Senators goalie Craig Anderson made 42 saves.

“It was a tight hockey game, obviously,” said Leafs centre John Tavares. “We were doing a pretty good job generating chances, getting a lot of pucks to the net, but giving too much time and space and we just can’t give up the opportunities, especially to the middle of the ice to make it tough on our goaltenders. It’s hard to explain, but it’s just the attention to detail each and every shift.”

Despite the loss, Dermott was happy to start working out the kinks before the playoffs. He played 17 minutes 43 seconds.

WATCH | Sens troll Leafs with Hall & Oates goal song: 

In the dying seconds of their 4-2 victory, the Ottawa Senators decided to troll the Toronto Maple Leafs by playing their home goal song ‘You Make My Dreams’ by Hall & Oates. 1:00

“Yeah, tough outcome, but I feel like it was a good stepping stone for me, feeling comfortable and getting back.” he said. “I think [defence partner Martin Marincin] and I had a really good first period and then a couple breakdowns later on that they capitalized on. I think a lot to be happy about, especially early on, that I can move forward with.”

Anthony Duclair, with two goals, Magnus Paajarvi and Cody Ceci scored for the Senators (28-44-6).

Auston Matthews and Connor Brown scored for the Leafs (45-26-7). Backup goalie Garret Sparks stopped 18 shots.

Sparks takes the blame

Sparks, who also took the loss two weeks ago, appeared dejected and took the brunt of the responsibility for the loss.

“I just have to make more saves,” said Sparks. “We come roaring back to tie the game, it would have been a huge save to make on the third [goal] and obviously the first two weren’t great either.”

The Canadian Tire Centre, as usual, was filled with a large contingent of Toronto fans. They didn’t have much to cheer about until the third period — and only for a short time.

Trailing 2-0, Toronto was finally able to get on the board with a power-play goal early in the third as Matthews beat Anderson high glove side.

Just 27 seconds later, the Leafs tied the game as the Senators had a bad turnover in their own end, which resulted in an odd-man rush and Brown picking the top corner to beat Anderson.

The Senators managed to respond quickly, though, and regained the lead less than two minutes later as Ceci tucked a shot just under the crossbar.

“It was a guy walking down the middle, good shot,” admitted Sparks. “I’ve got to get out more. I’ve got to wear that, find a way to get a piece of it and make a save for the team because they were playing so well.”