SUN Hockey Pool

Leafs come up empty

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

CALGARY -- The mountains have always been an obstacle in this part of the country, and last night they looked very big, very red and very impassible to the visiting Maple Leafs.

Toronto began a three-game Western trip by having its six-game winning streak halted and reached the halfway point of its season losing to Miikka Kiprusoff and the stingy Flames 1-0 at a sold-out Saddledome.

The Leafs didn't get a shot in the second period until it was more than half over, and Kiprusoff completely shut the door when Toronto threatened in the third.

Tony Amonte's second-period goal was all the Flames needed to ride Kiprusoff's sixth shutout of the season.

The game saw what some National Hockey Leaguers would call poetic justice, when former-Leaf Bryan Marchment was helped off the ice with a knee injury after trying to stick his leg out on Jason Allison.

Marchment, who was called for kneeing on the play, has been accused of cheap low hits throughout his career.

But the Leafs were outhit by the Flames, who had vowed to take the large Toronto fan element out of the game.

When the Leafs did get through, Jeff O'Neill missed an empty net on a backhand and Kiprusoff stopped everything else.

"He's our cornerstone," defenceman Andrew Ference said earlier in the day. "When he's making big saves and not letting out big rebounds, it just energizes all of us."

Calgary broke up a sloppy, scoreless game at 4:24 of the second period, though it wasn't a classic goal. Poor Leafs' clearing allowed a Regehr backhand that struck at least one Toronto stick before eluding Ed Belfour.

The Leafs now have a quick turnaround to play the Oilers in Edmonton.

Coach Pat Quinn cleared Allison (fractured ring finger) and Darcy Tucker (sore ribs) for duty, dropping Mariusz Czerkawksi and John Pohl from the lineup, despite their improved play. Quinn formed an oddly effective crash line with Tie Domi, Wade Belak and Clarke Wilm, the latter centring a hot Toronto penalty killing unit.

Tucker was in great pain at least once going back to the bench after fighting for position in Kiprusoff's crease.

The Flames' power play, great on the road and weak at home, continued that trend with four missed chances in the first two periods, one on a wicked Belfour slash on ex-Chicago teammate Amonte.

The Leafs reached the 41-game mark of the schedule with a 23-15-3 record, far from secure in terms of conference playoff qualification.

Calgary is also halfway home, 25-12-4 and battling the Oilers for first overall in the Northwest Division.

"I don't look at it as halfway, I look at it as 57-25," Flames general manager/coach Darryl Sutter said. "We have 57 games to the Olympic break and 25 (to the end of the schedule)."

In the final seconds with the Leafs buzzing around the Flames' goal, Tucker had a great opportunity but fanned on Allison's cross-ice pass from 20 feet out.

Tucker may have aggravated his nagging rib injury in the process. He laid on the ice for a couple of minutes before being helped off the ice.


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