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Ottawa Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo stops the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Tyler Bertuzzi and Ottawa Senators defenseman Travis Hamonic battle in front of the net during the first period at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, on Dec. 27.Nick Turchiaro/Reuters

Christmas may be a time of peace and good will to all, but there was little love lost on or around the ice Wednesday as rivalries quickly became the theme of the day.

For the third successive time this season, the road team triumphed in the Battle of Ontario as the Ottawa Senators capped a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Earlier in the day, in the Maple Leafs dressing room, loyalties were split on either side of this country’s southern border as soon as discussion turned to the ongoing world juniors.

Max Domi recalled winning gold for Canada on Scotiabank Arena ice in 2015, pointing out it was one of his greatest hockey memories.

“It’s an exciting time of year,” said Leafs winger Matthew Knies, pointing out that while he was happy for Toronto teammates Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan, currently suiting up for Team Canada in Sweden, that’s as far as the support extends for the American.

“No chance. I’ll cheer for them, but I can’t cheer for Team Canada,” he said, having come up short with Team USA in the rescheduled 2022 tournament. “They won it the year I went, so it’s just a bad taste in my mouth.”

Closer to home, the rivalry between Ontario’s two NHL teams may not be as heated as it was 20 or so years ago, but Wednesday’s game pulled few punches.

Adding a little extra spice to the proceedings was interim Senators head coach Jacques Martin, coaching just his fourth game back behind the Ottawa bench since stepping in for the fired D.J. Smith.

Martin, or course, needs little introduction to this rivalry. He was the Senators head coach during the four playoff meetings between the teams in five seasons between 2000-04. Just as famously – at least in Toronto – he lost all four.

Wednesday’s win improved Martin to 2-2 in his second go-round with Ottawa, and the 71-year-old was happy with the fight his team showed, particularly after going down 0-2.

“I just feel that our players are gaining some confidence,” he said afterwards. “I feel that they’re more composed and even if we get behind, I didn’t see panic signs. I thought we got better as the game went along and to me that’s a great sign.”

Much like the early 21st-century group that Martin coached previously, the Senators’ current crop of players is sprinkled with talent, but the results have been lacking, with the team nursing the NHL’s third-longest playoff drought at six seasons and counting.

Sixteen points separated the two teams at opening faceoff, with Ottawa sitting dead last in the Eastern Conference and looking up at Toronto, currently second in the Atlantic Division and hard on the heels of the first-place Boston Bruins.

As might have been expected, the Maple Leafs wasted little time bringing their greater talent and experience to bear, particularly against a team that had lost six of its previous seven games heading into Wednesday’s game.

Both Knies and Tyler Bertuzzi found the back of the net within a span of 23 seconds, giving Toronto a quick 2-0 lead barely six minutes into the first period.

But recent outings have not been kind to Toronto’s netminders, most notably in last week’s 9-3 dusting in Buffalo, and predictably enough, the shutout didn’t last.

Just past the midway mark of the second period, Ottawa broke out short-handed on an odd-man rush, with Parker Kelly firing a one-timer past Martin Jones following a pass from Claude Giroux.

And Giroux could have heaped more pain on Toronto seconds later, bearing down on Jones on a breakaway, but Timothy Liljegren did just enough to tie him up and the shot rolled wide.

The respite was brief though, with Drake Batherson potting a rebound following a Jones save on Tim Stutzle and the game, which entering the period had seemed entirely in Toronto’s control, was tied at 2-2 entering the final 20 minutes.

“I thought we won the first and then they won the next one and then going into the third it’s a 20-minute hockey game,” Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly said afterwards. “So I don’t know if we had [the game] in hand all night, but I thought we had a good start and then from there I thought we got away from what made us was successful earlier in the game.”

That set the stage for Batherson to try his luck 3:44 into the final period, with the Senators forward taking a pass from Vladimir Tarasenko to the right of the Leafs goal. From an almost impossible angle, the winger fired the puck off the shoulder of the Toronto goaltender, with the puck just dropping over the goal line.

Jones was hard-pressed to fully explain the freak winner after the game.

“He just turned around and wires a snap shot from the corner and it just hit me in the perfect spot,” the former all-star said.

Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk added an empty-netter to seal the win with his 16th goal of the season, which was also his 300th career NHL point. Joonas Korpisalo made 34 saves to earn the win, with Jones making 26 saves in the loss.

As you might expect, Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe cut a frustrated figure in the post-game press conference, with his team once again playing down to less-vaunted opposition.

“We couldn’t score the third goal or didn’t score the third goal, just let them hang around,” he said, while refusing to hang the loss on his team’s goaltending.

“… There’s things that we’d like to do a whole lot better on each of the goals that we gave up.”

Ottawa prevented Auston Matthews from finding the back of the net, ending his seven-game goal streak.

The NHL’s leading goal scorer with 28 goals, Matthews last scored against Ottawa on May 12, 2021, a somewhat surprising development for a player who famously announced his arrival in the NHL with a four-goal salvo in Ottawa in 2016.

The Maple Leafs now head to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets on Friday, before a home game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The Senators, meanwhile, head home to play a pair of games against the New Jersey Devils on Friday and the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

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