Revisiting the last Leafs' playoff series win

Published April 20, 2022 at 4:26 PM
On March 20th, 2004 the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 to win the eastern conference quarterfinals and move on to the second round. It would be the last playoff series the team would win to this day. An entire generation of Leafs' fans have lived their entire lives not knowing what its like to watch this team win in the playoffs, so lets get a little reminder, shall we?

The Leafs entered the 2004 playoffs as the 4th seed with 103 points, matching up against the Ottawa Senators for the 4th time in the previous 5 years. The buds had won all 3 of the previous playoff matchups, defeating some very very strong Ottawa lineups in years' past. This year though? The two teams were very evenly matched. Both were aging cores looking for another chance at the cup.

In Game 1 at the Air Canada Centre, Joe Nieuwendyk opened the scoring 3 minutes in, but Bryan Smolinski tied it up less than 2 minutes later. The Leafs would leave the first period up by 1 thanks to a powerplay goal from Bryan McCabe, but surrender a pair of powerplay goals to Wade Redden and Marian Hossa in the second as Ottawa ran away with the game. Hossa would put another one past Ed Belfour in the third to put the game to rest.

Final Score OTT 4 - TOR 1

The Leafs would bounce back in game 2 though, with a pair of goals from Gary Roberts and a shutout from Ed Belfour. The game got nasty at the end, with a little tussle involving Chris Neil and Greg de Vries on the Ottawa side and Tom Fitzgerald and Tie Domi on the Toronto side both being awarded penalties at the game's end.

Final score TOR 2 - OTT 0

Game 3 was a mauling that the Leafs were lucky to survive. The Ottawa Senators poured on an onslaught led by Marian Hossa's 10 shots, but Ed Belfour stood tall with 37 saves in the shutout. Timely goals from Joe Nieuwendyk and Mats Sundin gave the Leafs the victory.

Final Score TOR 2 - OTT 0

Game 4 had another familiar result in this series. Gary Roberts opened the scoring on the powerplay, but Daniel Alfredsson tied it in the final minute of the first. The Senators ran away with it in the second and third on the strength of goals from Marian Hossa, Todd White and Chris Phillips. This would be Leafs' Captain Mats Sundin's last game of the series, playing only 15 minutes in the loss.

Final Score OTT 4 - TOR 1

Shifting back to Toronto for game 5, the Leafs and Sens played a tight-checking game. Ed Belfour shut out the Sens and the Leafs played an inspired defence without their Captain. Tie Domi and Joe Nieuwendyk scored for the Leafs, providing them with the victory and giving them a 3-2 series lead.

Final Score TOR 2 - OTT 0

Game 6 in Ottawa was another tough game for the Leafs. With Sundin out, they simply didn't have the talent to hang with the Senators. Ottawa seized control after the Leafs' Bryan McCabe opened the scoring, with Zdeno Chara and Mike Fisher scoring to lift the Sens over the Leafs. Ed Belfour was the only reason this stayed a 1 goal game, giving the Leafs a chance that they didn't deserve.

Final Score OTT 2 - TOR 1

Then, April 20th 2004, with game 7 back in Toronto. The Leafs put 3 goals on 11 shots past Sens starter Patrick Lalime in the first. Chad Kilger and a pair from Joe Nieuwendyk chased the Ottawa goalie, with backup Martin Prusek coming in in relief. Vaclav Varda pulled the Sens back within 2, but Bryan McCabe potted a goal in the third period for the insurance goal. With their Captain, Mats Sundin, out with injury, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the last playoff series in their history.

Final Score TOR 4 - OTT 1

The Leafs would go on to the second round, where the Philadelphia Flyers and Jeremy Roenick broke all our hearts once again and ended our quest for the cup in 2004.

It's been 18 years since they won their last one. The same question is on all of our minds. Is this the year?
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