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Florida Panthers center Mike Santorelli attempts a shot at Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010, in Sunrise, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee)
Florida Panthers center Mike Santorelli attempts a shot at Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010, in Sunrise, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee)

Leafs' losing skid continues Add to ...

So much for being able to beat the Florida Panthers.

Or anyone else, for that matter.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' losing streak hit its seventh consecutive game on Wednesday night, as the Panthers -- the only team Toronto has won against in its last 11 games -- cruised to a 4-1 victory at home.

The Leafs were also nearly shut out for the second game in a row and fourth time in two weeks, but Mikhail Grabovski finally broke a 140-minute-plus drought with six minutes to play in the game -- a very minor victory in a game that had few positives for the visitors.

As has been the case of late, this effort smacked of total group futility, with none of Toronto's supposed goal scorers able to muster many quality scoring chances on Panthers starter Tomas Vokoun throughout the game.

The Leafs' top two scorers -- Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur -- have both hit a wall under increased attention from the opposition, with Kessel's pointless streak hitting seven games and MacArthur registering only one goal in his last eight games after scoring six in his first seven.

With just 32 goals after 15 games -- exactly half of which came in the first four -- Toronto is on the verge of falling into the NHL basement in goals scored, an issue that has coach Ron Wilson and his staff firmly on the hot seat heading into what will likely be a difficult game against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.

Monster mashed

This was Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson's first start of the season against a soft opponent, but after playing well in his first four outings, he played a key role in the loss.

Never the best puck handler, Gustavsson's errant pass off the boards went directly to Florida defenceman Bryan Allen, who immediately blasted in the game's first goal less than eight minutes into the game.

Given Toronto's scoring woes of late, it was a crushing tally to give up. The Leafs have yet to lose in regulation when they score first but fell to 1-7-1 when they don't net that opening goal.

Vokoun, meanwhile, continues to be a Leaf killer. He has a 6-2-1 record -- including two shutouts -- in his last nine games against Toronto.

Fleeting meeting

Things have gotten so grim in Leaf-land that they called a dreaded players-only meeting on Wednesday afternoon at their hotel in Sunrise, a gathering that came a little more than 12 hours after netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere ripped into his teammates for a listless performance in a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

"We do [respect Giguere's comments]and we know it, we know we haven't played our best," defenceman Tomas Kaberle said. "We know we don't have the great skill guys out here so it just has to be hard work like we did the first few games and simple plays. We need to find a way to win hockey games."

That may take a few more meetings, as this looks like a truly defeated team at this point.

Parting shot

Seems fair to say Leafs GM Brian Burke's top-six, bottom-six mantra for his forwards has to date been an abysmal failure. It's all well and good to argue for an approach that relies on two skilled lines and two gritty, aggressive ones, but without nearly enough high-end talent to put the puck in the net among their top six forwards, the Leafs desperately need more multidimensional players on the third and fourth lines who could move up in the lineup to provide offence.

That's not really an option with nothing but checkers to choose from, something that has -- in Wilson's defence -- limited the coach's options during this goal drought.

And to think Raffi Torres (and his seven goals on the Canucks' third line) was available for a song in free agency in late August.

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