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Optimism from start of Leaf season is long gone Add to ...

It began as one of the uglier nights in the Toronto Maple Leafs' recent, ugly history -- and even a late rally did little to ease the pain afterward.

Toronto ultimately lost 3-2 to a heated rival in the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night, but the bigger loss may well have been that of captain Dion Phaneuf, who left the game to go to the hospital with a significant cut to his leg midway through the second period.

Along the way, the Leafs extended a nearly three-game goalless streak to more than 167 minutes before getting two goals in the third period to claw back a respectable final total.

All of the optimism generated by Toronto's 4-0-0 start, meanwhile, is long gone, with questions now looming over just how coach Ron Wilson will coax any offence out of a group that has scored nine goals in a 1-5-1 streak in their last seven games.

The Leafs' ailing power play -- with only six goals on 47 opportunities this season -- was part of the problem in this one, going scoreless on essentially a four-minute power play to open the second period.

At that point, Ottawa was only up 1-0 after a penalty shot goal by Mike Fisher, the score kept close partly as a result of some strong play by Leafs netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the opening frame.

After Toronto came up short on that extended man advantage, when two Sens' penalties nearly overlapped, it was the home side's turn for a parade to the box. Three different Leafs were called for three infractions in a four-minute span midway through the second, and Ottawa got two quick power play goals on point shots by Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson.

The drought



167 minutes, 39 seconds







Winger Nikolai Kulemin's goal five minutes into the third period ended an incredible drought of more than eight periods without a goal, the longest span the Leafs had gone without scoring since Dec. 8, 1927, in the first year the franchise played under that name.







Prior to Kulemin's goal, Toronto hadn't scored since late in a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers last Tuesday. The Leafs franchise had not been shutout in three consecutive games since Dec. 20, 1926, when they were playing as the Toronto St. Patricks.







With the goalie pulled and the Leafs on the power play, Clarke MacArthur then scored his seventh of the season with 51 seconds remaining to bring Toronto to within one.











Missed opportunities







Toronto's floundering offence actually had plenty of chances in the game, as the Leafs out shot Ottawa 35-24 and weren't able to bury a few glorious chances on netminder Brian Elliott.







Leading the way in the generated chances department was defenceman Francois Beauchemin, who led all players in the game with seven shots on goal and jumped into the play often throughout the game. With Phaneuf leaving after only 12 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time, Beauchemin led the Leafs with more than 27 minutes in the game and finished plus one.







Ottawa was denied what appeared to be a goal in the second period, when three players slid into the net with the puck after Giguere leaped out of the crease to attempt a poke-check. A lengthy review was unable to conclusively show it was a goal, however.







The boo-birds

Adding to the peculiarity of the evening, Leafs GM Brian Burke took it upon himself in the first intermission to defend Phaneuf from a few fans' boos in Saturday's 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers.







"I think that it's a disgrace," Burke told a large group of media. "All of the time I worked in Vancouver I don't think I ever had a player booed. Our team got booed a few times - I think we had it coming - but I don't think I've ever had a player booed. And I think it's really unfair to Dion because of the other things he's brought."







By the second intermission, with Toronto trailing 3-0 and Phaneuf out of the game, the Air Canada Centre fans were in fact booing the entire team - presumably taking Burke's advice.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

 

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