OTTAWA, Ontario (AP)Josh Norris scored nine seconds into overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Wednesday night to finish the season.
Mitch Marner turned over the the puck to Brady Tkachuk off the opening face in the extra period, and Tkachuk fed Norris for his 17th of the season.
”What a way to end the season,” Norris said. ”We played so well down the stretch. That’s very exciting. We want to carry that into next year.”
Parker Kelly scored in his NHL debut for Ottawa, Connor Brown had his league-leading fifth short-handed goal, Nikita Zaitsev had a goal and an assist, and Filip Gustavsson stopped 30 shots.
The rebuilding Senators started the 56-game schedule 2-12-1, then went 21-16-4 after that.
”We’re just rolling now,” Brown said. ”We’re really finding our stride. We’re competing against the best teams every single night. We’re not just squeaking out wins. We’re really playing well. You wish you could have 82 games, but it is what it is. It’s important to bottle this up and hit the ground running at the start of next year.”
Ottawa finished eight points behind Montreal for the North’s fourth and final playoff spot.
”I think the right way to look at it is we learned a real good lesson,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said. ”If you don’t play as a team and if everyone’s not all in at the same time, and you don’t do all the right things, it can get away from you, and get away from you real quick.”
Auston Matthews scored his NHL-best 41st goal for Toronto. Jake Muzzin had a goal and an assist, and John Tavares also scored.
”No life, no energy,” Muzzin said. ”We battled a little bit, but not good enough.”
Frederik Andersen made 24 saves in his return following an eight-week injury absence for the North Division champion Maple Leafs.
Andersen played in the NHL for the first time since March 19 because of an injury ”around” one of his knees that cost him 23 games. The 31-year-old goalie made two AHL appearances as part of a conditioning stint.
”I felt really good,” Andersen said. ”Just some weird plays and unfortunate bounces.”
The Maple Leafs will complete the regular season Friday night at Winnipeg, then open the playoffs against Montreal.
”Our guys know what’s around the corner here and nobody wants to go into it too banged up,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. ”You’re a little shy on everything that you’re doing and you’re just not quite into it mentally. But it’s a 56-game season and we’re only through 55.”