Phil Kessel laughed at the notion of helmets being tossed on the ice for his hat trick on Armed Forces Night.

Yet it was a game in which basic training in structure and discipline had as much a role for the Maple Leafs as Kessel’s three goals, including his 30th, and his four points in a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Down 2-0 for the second straight home game on Saturday, Toronto put together the right amount of goaltending, forechecking and special teams play to allow the comeback and a thrilling third period that featured a total of five goals.

In the process:

n Kessel reached 30 goals for the fourth time in his career, setting his sights on 40 with 24 games to go.

n The Leafs won for the sixth consecutive time at the Air Canada Centre, the longest such streak since taking nine at the end of 2006-07.

n Jonathan Bernier picked up his 20th win, becoming just the 11th Leafs goalie to do that in his first season since the 1967 expansion.

n The Leafs put their Ontario rivals eight points in the rearview mirror and kept pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning to set up a possible run at second place in the conference when they begin a Florida road swing next week.

“To me, we weren’t as sharp as we could be, but our structure gave us a chance,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “When the dust settles, Phil finds a way to make a huge contribution.”

After a productive 20-point January, tied for first in the NHL for the month, Kessel delivered his third hat trick as a Leaf and second at the ACC against the Sens.

There would be no ducking the media on this special night and the reticent Kessel gave in, posing on the ice with troops and armoured cars, then hanging in for one of his longest scrums of the year.

“I think it’s our whole line (that’s hot), not one or two players,” said Kessel, underlining that with a sweet centring feed on a Tyler Bozak goal.

Those two and James van Riemsdyk had eight points, to make it 51 for the trio since the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

“I was happy that Bozie scored to give us a two-goal cushion. We’re used to each other and we’re finding a way (to score). The most important thing is the win.”

On that note, perhaps the Leafs wouldn’t have been celebrating afterwards had Jay McClement not supplied some unsung heroics. The penalty-killing specialist was active in defusing a Dion Phaneuf minor late in the second period in a one-goal game.

With Carl Gunnarsson in the box in the third, McClement won a puck scramble at the Leafs line, fought for a breakaway, drew a Senators penalty to Patrick Weircioch and nearly scored during the delayed call.

“Those are the things that go unnoticed,” praised Carlyle of McClement and a penalty unit that’s emerging from its mid-season slump.

“We were sloppy (early on) with the puck. Ottawa is a team that likes to come with three or four off the rush, but we were able to nullify that as the game went on and started to play in their zone with it.”

The Leafs needed smelling salts a few times in the early going, when bruiser Chris Neil took advantage late in the first period. He zinged a shot off Morgan Rielly’s shin pad that fooled Bernier. Later, Neil liberated the puck from Jake Gardiner and fed Colin Greening for a 2-on-1 goal.

And just as Kessel had the rink rocking with his hard power play snap off a Rielly pass to make it 3-2 Leafs, Neil was credited with a goal that Joffrey Lupul was trying to get off the line and into Bernier’s skates. The Leafs were lining up for the faceoff when the horn sounded to get the officials over to the phone with the NHL war room next door.