Wings overpower hapless Leafs

TERRY KOSHAN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

DETROIT -- The Maple Leafs didn't have to gut themselves with another third-period collapse last night.

Instead, the Leafs allowed one of the worst power plays in the National Hockey League to walk all over them on the way to their seventh loss in a row.

The horribly undisciplined Leafs, in their first visit to Joe Louis Arena in nearly four years, were short-handed a season-high 14 times and gave up a season-high five power-play goals in a 5-1 drubbing by the Detroit Red Wings.

"Right now, we are a fragile group," captain Mats Sundin said. "When you are in a slump the way we are, you wonder what is going on. But you don't have time to feel sorry for yourself or hang your head. We have a huge home game on Tuesday (against the Tampa Bay Lightning).

"We have good enough players to be a playoff team and that should be our only concern right now."

Detroit entered last night with the 27th-ranked power-play conversion rate in the NHL (12.5%). In only two of their previous 27 games did the Wings score more than one power-play goal.

If the Leafs lose to Tampa, they will equal their worst losing streak in 2005-06 when they went for a tumble last January. And wouldn't coach Paul Maurice love to carry an eight-game skid into his old stamping grounds in Carolina on Friday night?

Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg had two goals each for Detroit, and Dan Cleary one. Bryan McCabe, with the Leafs down 3-0, also scored.

Matt Stajan blazed a path to the penalty box with four minors. Chad Kilger had three.

After holding meetings on Friday afternoon -- the one after practice was 20 minutes, not 45 as some reports indicated, and Maurice did not "blast" the players as one headline suggested -- the Leafs didn't look too bad early. They held a 6-1 lead in shots but could not solve Dominik Hasek, who has beaten the Leafs 22 times in 32 career regular-season games.

Seconds after Toronto killed the first penalty in a two-man advantage, Samuelsson got the ball rolling before Alex Steen, who was in the box, could not get back into the play in time.

Maurice was asked if the Leafs have hit rock bottom.

"I thought the other night (a loss in Boston on Thursday) was," said Maurice, who was not outwardly upset afterward. "At least there was some fight (last night). Some of the competition was better than it has been. We absolutely got destroyed on the power play."

The Leafs are grasping for whatever positives they can, and Michael Peca, who escaped with only a large bruise on his right hand after blocking a Mathieu Schneider shot, took that approach.

"When you get humbled early in the season, it wakes you up and helps you realize the importance of the little things in the game, and makes you appreciate those things," Peca said. "It will help us build some character to get out of this."

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REPORT CARD

D Forwards: There was little the Leafs could do with the Wings defencemen, who were getting rid of the puck before the Leafs could get a forecheck going.

D Goaltending: Andrew Raycroft did not get much help, but he certainly did not provide a lot, either. J-S Aubin came on for the third period and promptly was beaten for a goal.

D Defence: Very little defence was put up by anyone. It was beyond a little strange.


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