The Toronto Maple Leafs were embarrassed.
Their coach was embarrassed.
Their fans were disgusted, with many booing to end each period and a good portion leaving before the third period.
And all the good Toronto had done in gaining points in its last six games has quickly been washed away.
The Leafs were blown out 7-1 on Saturday by the visiting New York Rangers, the just result of an incredibly lacklustre effort in their first game since an emotional win at the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.
They were badly outplayed throughout – out shot 18-7 after one period and 34-18 after two – and netminder Jonathan Bernier allowed a couple stinkers to be chased from the net for the first time this season.
It was hard to fault the goalies, though. Bernier has been the team’s co-MVP with fellow netminder James Reimer this season, and their team played like a limp balloon in front of them on Saturday, with little energy or enthusiasm, in allowing a ridiculous 50 shots.
The Rangers had several point blank chances, more than a few breakaways – including one in the second period that Chris Kreider scored on to make it 4-0 – and were gifted easy access to the net again and again.
It was all bad.
And the Leafs knew it.
“We apologize to the people who paid money to see us play like that,” alternate captain Joffrey Lupul said. “We’re going to feel pretty bad about this one tonight… It’s embarrassing. Getting booed off the ice first period, second period and the end of the game, and we deserved it.”
“It’s not good enough,” defenceman Cody Franson echoed. “We got outworked, to put it mildly.”
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was just as disconsolate as his players after the final horn and let them know in a brief address in the dressing room that kept the doors closed to media for a few minutes longer than normal.
“My message was it was unacceptable to play [that way] and feel that we’re not embarrassed by what our performance was,” Carlyle said.
In all, New York scored five unanswered goals on Bernier to start the game – including two from former Leafs checker Dominic Moore – before Lupul replied with Toronto’s only goal late in the second period. The Blueshirts simply had far more jump despite the fact they played the night before in a loss in Pittsburgh. (Toronto was coming off two days off.)
Making matters worse for the Leafs, both defenceman Carl Gunnarsson and winger David Clarkson left the game early with injuries, leaving Carlyle to use a mishmash of lines and pairings the rest of the way.
But the absences weren’t the reason for the loss by a longshot, not when essentially every Leaf dressed had a poor game.
“No offence to those guys, but I don’t know if they would have been helping tonight,” Lupul said bitterly. “That’s certainly not an excuse for how we played tonight… There’s no excuse. Winter Classic [hangover], couple injuries, anything – it was just a really, really poor effort for us.
“We weren’t good enough in any aspect. We weren’t moving the puck out of our zone. We were getting beat off the rush 1-on-1 and offensively we weren’t really creating anything. We can all share the blame equally in this one.”
The loss ended a 4-0-2 run for Toronto that was a mirage in some sense given it included five shootout games, one of which was the victory over the Detroit Red Wings in front of more than 100,000 fans at the outdoor game at The Big House.
The lift Leafs GM Dave Nonis had been hoping his team would get from that win in Ann Arbor, however, wasn’t anywhere to be found as Toronto was out of sorts from the drop of the puck.
This was the 13th time this season the Leafs have allowed 40 or more shots – a full 30 per cent of their games – a trend that obviously cannot continue if they want to hang on to their playoff spot at the low end of the Eastern Conference.
On Saturday, the Wings passed them in the standings, while the Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers and of course the Rangers all gained two points behind them.
The Leafs now have two days of practice to regroup before facing the New York Islanders at the Air Canada Centre in their next game.
They need it.
“It’s back to the drawing board,” Carlyle said.
“There’s not much we can take out of this other than not wanting to have this feeling again,” Lupul added.
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