For Randy Carlyle and the Toronto Maple Leafs it was about respect.

“For periods of time there's been a lot of, I'd say, sand kicked in the face of the people of Toronto and hopefully this gives them something to stand up and cheer for,” said Carlyle.

His team erased a drought that's been gnawing at the city of Toronto for nine long years. With a scrappy and at times ugly 4-1 victory over the Senators in the nation's capital the Leafs sealed their fate, clinching a long-starved spot in the postseason on Saturday evening.

Outshot 50-22 and outplayed in considerable stretches by the pesky Senators, the Leafs nonetheless found a means to victory, however rocky the path may have been.

In clinching the winning hand at ScotiaBank Place they required another near seal-proof effort from James Reimer and they got it. The 25-year-old rarely had a quiet moment against a flurry of Ottawa attacks, stopping 49 of 50 shots, including all 15 in the final frame to preserve the win and ultimately seal his team's fate.

“Most of the players here, we don't carry the burden of the nine years or whatever it's been,” Reimer said of a spell in the playoff wilderness which has lingered since 2004. “For me, this is my third year so for two years we didn't make the playoffs. That's pressure enough for us as athletes, we want to be the best and we want to play in the playoffs, play to have a chance to win. But obviously the fans and the city, they've been waiting awhile.”

In the moments after their first victory this season, Carlyle spoke to the need for his club to “earn respect back” for an organization that had become “the butt of jokes in the hockey world”. In sealing a position in the postseason, they've taken the first meaningful step toward doing so.