Maple Leafs’ stunning loss to Senators a chance to prove mental fortitude

TORONTO — Even from their fresh perch atop the NHL standings, they can’t escape the tired old questions.

Have these Toronto Maple Leafs truly changed their spots?

Through 15 and two-thirds games of this shortened season, it was impossible to conclude anything other than they had based on the mountain of consistent, committed play. And then the last-place Ottawa Senators triggered an avalanche by turning a 5-1 deficit into Monday’s 6-5 overtime victory and the old doubts surfaced anew.

How could they not?

Ottawa entered the game eight wins and 16 points behind Toronto after just one month of the season. And in the entire 28-year history of the Senators franchise they had never won a game in which they trailed by four goals. Their lifetime record now stands at 1-237-3 in those situations.

“Just a couple careless plays and they were able to capitalize,” said Auston Matthews, who wasn’t responsible for any of them. “I think that’s a team that’s just not going to go away, they work hard the whole game. It doesn’t matter what the score is, they’re going to keep coming after you wave after wave. We’ve got to play their game.

“I think we just got a little lackadaisical and I think they challenged us and we didn’t really respond when they did get those chances.

“We definitely blew this one, for sure.”

It happened in almost comical fashion, depending on your sense of humour…

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