For most of Saturday's game, the Toronto Maple Leafs were better than the Vancouver Canucks.
They generated ample chances, played reasonably tight defensively, and were superb against the NHL's top-ranked power play, killing all five shorthanded situations. Yet the Maple Leafs lost 4-1 to the Canucks -- their eighth consecutive loss to Vancouver -- and conclude their western Canada road swing with just two of a possible six points.
"We probably didn't get enough shots through, and in a few situations, not enough traffic," said head coach Ron Wilson, who put his charges through a punitive practice in Lotusland after a 5-2 defeat in Calgary Thursday.
Toronto has not beaten the Canucks since November 2003, and even with a solid effort and the perfunctory Blue and White invasion of Rogers Arena, the team still lost by a healthy margin.
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, starting for an injured Jean-Sébastien Giguère (groin), stopped 25 of 28 shots and didn't have much chances on those that beat him. Luke Schenn finished minus-three, and was culpable on Vancouver's first three goals.
He lost Alex Burrows in front of Gustavsson in the first period, when a terrific frame by the visitors was wiped out by a tap-in goal and a 1-0 deficit. He was exposed by Jeff Tambellini's speed on the second goal, when Jannik Hansen finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe sequence. And Schenn failed to corral a neutral-zone puck on the third goal, when a Christian Ehrhoff tally crushed the Leafs' comeback efforts with five minutes remaining.
The Leafs should have had two big momentum swings in the first two periods. They had a five-on-three advantage midway through the opening stanza -- and won two offensive zone face-offs -- but generated only one chance.
Toronto killed a four-minute Canucks power play in the middle frame, when Kris Versteeg was penalized for slashing, then protested his way to another two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. But Hansen, who finished with a goal and an assist, scored a few minutes after the penalties expired, again sending the home team into intermission on a high.
Burrows also had a two-point game, while Kevin Bieksa had two assists and Daniel Sedin had a helper to extend his points streak to 10 games. Henrik Sedin scored into an empty net.
Mikhail Grabovski beat Roberto Luongo eight minutes into the final period to cut the margin to 2-1. Luongo made a spectacular save on Versteeg during the two-man advantage, but whiffed on Grabovski's elementary wrist shot.
"I don't know if it glanced off our d-man's stick or not," said Luongo, who made 27 saves. "If it didn't, I just probably blacked out for a second."
Wilson said Luongo looked "shaky," and was bobbling pucks in the third period, but acknowledged that the Canucks goalie made some huge saves and that the Leafs did not generate a net-front presence in the third period.
The Canucks improved to 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, and to 15-1-1 when Ryan Kesler registers a point. Vancouver has three road games remaining before the Christmas break, including a Wednesday contest against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Leafs return home for a game against the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Thrashers, then have six days off before resuming the schedule with a road contest in New Jersey.