Kessel hat trick, Phaneuf hit key Leafs’ win over Senators

The argument could be made ht that Dion Phaneuf played his best game as a Maple Leaf on Saturday night.

Ditto for Phil Kessel.

For sure, Phaneuf had a powerful outing against Ottawa — as did Phil Kessel, with his first hat trick in a Toronto uniform — as the Leafs swamped a hapless Senators side 6-5 at the Air Canada Centre.Phaneuf was at his bashing best, helping to fuel a good-looking offence with a pair of assists. And in a thundering instance of what he is best known for, Phaneuf flattened Stephane Da Costa with a clean, open-ice hit in the second period.

Then there was Kessel, with three goals and an all-around solid game at both ends of the ice.

“He worked hard all night, and it was great for Phil, great for his confidence,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.

Kessel, as has been the case since he became a Leaf, is under constant scrutiny as the team’s top sniper. He scored a lone goal in the pre-season and needed a huge game to silence concern about what kind of start he would have to this season.

“I got good passes and I was fortunate to bury them,” Kessel said, not wanting to draw too much attention to himself. “I’m happy for sure, but the main thing is we got the two points. I’m excited.”

That win looked to be in the bag with the Leafs up 5-1 at one point. But the Senators scored a pair of goals eight seconds apart late in the third to cut the lead to 5-4.

Kessel then scored his third of the night to give the Leafs a two-goal cushion, but Da Costa replied from a sharp angle with just under two minutes remaining. Ottawa called a timeout but that was as close at they would get.–kessel-hat-trick-phaneuf-hit-key-leafs-win-over-senators