Leafs find positives in loss to Montreal as they try to snap out of funk

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Winless in four (0-3-1) and with only two wins in their last nine games (2-5-2), the Leafs will be hearing it from their uneasy fans as they prepare for a home game against high-flying Atlanta on Tuesday.

"That's fine, that's our deal," said coach Paul Maurice. "We have to react differently (than the fans), we have to prepare and get back to work.

"We're in our tough stretch. We have to get past it, but I like the way we played (Saturday)."

The Leafs deserved a better fate than a 4-3 shootout loss. They outshot the Habs 39-22 and outchanced them.

"Right now, when things aren't going your way, it seems that every mistake you make goes in your net," said captain Mats Sundin. "That's what happened.

"I think we should proud of how we played. You can't dwell on a loss, especially when you played pretty good hockey."

The question, however, is: Will the Leafs shake this off in time to get back on the winning track Tuesday?

Coughing up a two-goal lead with less than nine minutes to play in the third period, as Toronto did Saturday, is the kind of thing that can play on players' minds.

"Nothing's rolling easy for us right now, there's no question about that," said Maurice.

But he doesn't see the latest loss having lingering impact.

"No, no, the Atlanta loss (5-0 on Thursday) was tougher," he said. "This one hurts more, but the Atlanta loss, you did it to yourself."

The popular mantra inside the visitors' dressing room at the Bell Centre was that the Leafs have a lot to build on after grabbing a point in Montreal.

"I think so," said veteran centre Michael Peca. "We got back to some simple things that weren't in our game for a while. The result was positive."

Added Kyle Wellwood: "We competed well. The other games we didn't compete very well and lost. Against Montreal we had them on the ropes and let it get away.

"They're an excellent hockey team. To outplay them for most of the game like we did, that's a good positive."

The Leafs also play at Boston on Thursday, a team they've lost three of four against already this season, and at Detroit next Saturday night, so the road doesn't get any easier.

The Leafs better not blink for too long in the ultra-competitve Northweast Division. Fourth-place Ottawa has crept to within two points in the standings with a game in hand and even last-place Boston is five points back with four games in hand. Montreal moved two points ahead of Toronto with three games in hand.

"It's a long year," said Sundin. "We've got 50-plus games left and we got to make sure we keep working and bring with us the good things we did against Montreal.

"We a great effort, we had all four lines playing well," added Sundin. "Sometimes you win games you don't shouldn't and sometimes you lose game you deserve to win. I thought we were the better team but Montreal found a way."

The Leafs keep shooting even if they keep losing. Their 39-shot barrage Saturday followed a 36-shot effort at Atlanta and 46 in their 4-1 loss to Boston on Tuesday. At some point, that kind of production has to start paying off again.

"If we keep getting 40 shots we're going to win a lot of hockey games," assured Sundin.

While the shots are there, the Leafs aren't capitalizing.

"We're squeezing it, we're squeezing it, fighting the puck a little bit at times," said Maurice.


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