NHL Scores: Maple Leafs end nine-year playoff drought with win in Ottawa

USA TODAY Sports

Toronto defeated their rivals and vanquished their demons in one fell swoop on Saturday.

The Toronto Maple Leafs aren't supposed to be here. In fact, if this was a full season, it's very likely they would not be here at all.

Try telling that to a Leafs fan this morning. Toronto clinched a playoff berth with a win in Ottawa on Saturday, shaking the nine-year-old monkey from their backs in the process. The cast of characters that earned that win pretty much summed up the whole situation nicely.

The scorers (in order) for Toronto: a former second overall pick sent to Toronto after his former team gave up on him, an often (unfairly) criticized rookie and a veteran that has been traded around the league multiple times before settling with the Leafs. And the goalie that led the way was almost replaced via trade mere weeks ago.

You can't really come up with better players to represent a team that many have considered an afterthought for years. Now that afterthought, and those players that were written off so many times, has reached the playoffs.

So this guy's actions are quite justified:

All The NHL Scores

Get caught up on Saturday's NHL scores with recaps from our network of SB Nation team blogs. Here's a quick glance at the full day of action:

Penguins 3, Bruins 2

Devils 6, Panthers 2

Islanders 5, Jets 4 (SO)

Capitals 5, Canadiens 1

Maple Leafs 4, Senators 1

Flyers 5, Hurricanes 3

Coyotes 3, Blackhawks 2 (SO)

Canucks 2, Red Wings 1 (SO)

Five Answers

Prior to Saturday's games, we presented five burning questions regarding the day's action. Here are your cool, soothing answers.

1. Is the biggest game of the day with a week left in the season really Islanders vs. Jets?

It was a bad day for the Jets. Winnipeg dropped a shootout loss to the Islanders only to watch the Capitals continue running away with the Southeast lead. The Isles are now all but guaranteed a spot in the postseason, sitting pretty in sixth place. The Jets still have a shot at the playoffs, but they don't have any room for error now. They sit three points behind the Capitals for the Southeast, but you have to imagine they won't catch the surging Caps in time. The only hope left for Winnipeg is winning out and somehow passing the Rangers for the eighth seed.

2. What will the atmosphere in Boston be for today's makeup game?

Well, the fans sang the national anthem again, but other than that things were back to normal in Boston. That includes losing to the Penguins, as the Bruins dropped their sixth consecutive loss to Pittsburgh at TD Garden. The Pens have now clinched the top seed in the East, despite playing without Evegeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, James Neal or Paul Martin. Looks like Ray Shero's moves at the deadline are working out nicely.

Speaking of...

3. Will Boston boo Jarome Iginla?

Beantown doesn't forget slights against their city easily, and that extends to Jarome Iginla. The player who turned the Bruins down to play for Pittsburgh was lustily booed whenever he touched the puck. It didn't have much of an effect, as Iginla scored to help Pittsburgh beat Boston.

4. Do the Maple Leafs finally clinch tonight?

Oh, it was a sweet Saturday night for the Leafs. They got another huge game from James Reimer (49 saves), two big goals from Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul, and their first playoff berth in nine years. All against their bitter rivals from Ottawa. There wasn't a single sober Leafs fan on Saturday night.

5. Can the Red Wings take advantage of the teams ahead of them losing?

Yes. And no. They managed a point out of a shootout loss in Vancouver, which left them a point back of the eighth-place Blue Jackets with a game in hand. If the 10th-place Stars win out, they will leapfrog both of those teams to make the playoffs.

Impact Moment

What moment from Saturday night's games will be making headlines in the coming days?

Good luck trying to talk about anything other than the Leafs making the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Take some time today to browse through #lasttimetheleafsmadetheplayoffs on Twitter. You'll find crazy trivia facts and some heartwarming stuff too.

Stat of the Night

James Reimer deserves Vezina consideration:

Post to Post

The Leafs clinch their first playoff spot in almost a decade with the win. Of course they do. In a game that takes place in Ottawa at SBP with a lot of Leafs fans in attendance. Naturally. During which the Sens vastly outshoot the Leafs and were stymied by a strong performance in net. I've seen that before. What's that you say? The goal that ended the game was scored by Toronto's new favourite who Brian Burke snatched away at the 2009 Draft? Cool. On a nationally televised game on the CBC featuring blatant homerism from Bob Cole, Glen Healy et al. Perfect.

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