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It was game No. 89 of the 1,230 that will be played this NHL season – but this one would be like no other.

It began, actually, 18 days earlier when a Wednesday match between two bitter rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators, was appropriately postponed following the attack on the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill that left Corporal Nathan Cirillo dead and a country traumatized.

And it began all over again this day, Sunday, at that same War Memorial where, instead of a morning skate, the two teams gathered – wearing dark suits, poppies and sombre expressions – while their respective captains, Erik Karlsson for the Senators and Dion Phaneuf for the Maple Leafs, solemnly laid wreaths to commemorate both the chilling attack on Oct. 22 and the rising warmth Canadians will feel this Tuesday, Nov. 11, Remembrance Day.

"It's not about anything else than the people who lost their lives," Karlsson said.

The players wore green military camouflage jerseys for the warmup. Both teams, every player, stood on the bluelines for a reading of the Ode of Remembrance and a moment of silence before a more-stirring-than-usual O Canada by retired OPP constable Lyndon Slewidge, the sellout crowd of 19,229 joining in full voice.

"It was deep," said Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean of the downtown morning ceremony. "I'm not sure if they've ever been involved in something like that to show respect for what someone has given them."

"For us as players to be part of that Sunday," Phaneuf added, "with both teams going there, paying our respects to the unfortunate and terrible events, it's bigger than the game."

But there was, of course, still a game to play. Not much was made of the small fact that this would be the 100th "Battle of Ontario," a phrase that shrivels in comparison to true battles in places such as Vimy and Ortona.

No one dared say "Hockey is figure skating in a war zone" or any of the other oversimplfications of professional sport.

Slowly, this match between two Ontario cities, neither of whom even reached the playoffs last spring, turned into what it needed to become: Game No. 89 of the 2014-15 NHL season.

Despite concerns about energy – both teams had played the night before, the Leafs beating the New York Rangers and the Senators losing in a shootout to the Winnipeg Jets – this game that began so seriously soon turned, well, silly as the Leafs came from behind to post a 5-3 victory.

The Senators scored first, less than three minutes into the match, when swift little Mike Hoffman put a wrist shot over the glove of Toronto goaltender James Reimer.

Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner, who came into the game with an impressive .927 save percentage, had a rough night of it. Every time his team would go ahead, the Leafs would come back. Peter Holland tied it at 1-1 with a weak shot that somehow slipped behind Lehner.

The Senators went ahead for the second time on a broken play in which Kyle Turris came charging into the zone to pick up a loose puck and beat Reimer to the blocker side. Early in the second period, James van Riemsdyk scored a second weak goal on Lehner when the puck skipped high into the net and lodged in the netting.

But again Ottawa went ahead, this time on the power play, when Mark Stone slammed home an Erik Karlsson rebound – only to have Josh Leivo tip a corner pass past a kneeling Lehner.

"As the game went on," said Ottawa coach MacLean, "their competition continued to raise while ours lowered."

Finally, the Leafs took their first lead when, short-handed, Mike Santorelli picked up a loose puck on a fractured play in the Senators end and lofted a shot past Lehner.

"We let down in the second period and we just never recovered," said Turris.

"Not very good," Lehner said about his own play this night. "It didn't go my way."

In the third period, David Clarkson tipped a floating wrist shot from defenceman Morgan Rielly past Lehner and the match that had started so well for the Senators was lost.

The Senators now hold a 50-40-3-7 lifetime record against their bitter provincial rivals, but Ottawa has now won but two games over the past 10 times the two teams have faced each other.

"They seem to elevate against us – and we haven't matched it," said Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan, who picked up an assist on the Turris goal but has struggled early in the season.

The Senators, having lost their first game at home in regulation, now head west for games against Vancouver Canucks (Tuesday), Edmonton Oilers (Thursday) and Calgary Flames (Saturday).

As for the Leafs, with two wins in a row, their record now improves to 8-5-2 for 18 points. They host the powerful Boston Bruins Wednesday and Pittsburgh Penguins Friday.

"We've got to continue to roll from here," Clarkson said.