|Ottawa Senators Mike Fisher scores his first of two second period goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Place. (Errol McGihon/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - OTTAWA -- If travelling Maple Leafs fans measured this week by goals per gallon of gas, they were definitely getting hosed.
In their third straight road game within driving distance of Toronto, with all the blue and white wigs, face paint and $200 replica sweaters in the stands, the Leafs repaid the faithful with one lousy goal.
On Saturday, it was the turn of Senators' supporters at Scotiabank Place to mock the visitors in a 3-0 win. Defenceman Luke Schenn spoke his mind after the Leafs fell to 0-7-1 on the road after a couple of wins in Pittsburgh and New York, with just eight goals in the skid.
"It's frustrating," the third-year defenceman said. "I've never seen anything like it where you get shut out so many times (five this year, four all of last season). It's pretty tough to take.
"You can say all you want about getting shots (29 against the Sens), but guys are playing soft in their (opponents') end and in front, guys aren't competing, getting to the hard areas and it's pretty easy for their defencemen to box our forwards out. We're just not battling hard enough."
Asked what the Leafs could do to change that, Schenn quickly retorted: "Have a little will, take pride in getting to the net and take pride in scoring goals. Goals don't come free in this league. From the perimeter, guys have to be a little more hungrier."
Saturday's loss against a beatable team just a bit higher in the standings, was witnessed first-hand by general manager Brian Burke and lieutenant Dave Poulin. Phil Kessel's late short-handed goal in Buffalo was the only time in the past 48 hours the Leafs tripped a red light.
"We had a lot of opportunities to bear down tonight, me included," centre Tyler Bozak said of a second-period fumble. "We let them get away and we're not going to win games unless we bear down."
But these psyche-crushing chances are also taking place right in their most ardent fans, who would venture all the way here on snowy roads because they can't get tickets at the Air Canada Centre. Take this fanaticism for granted and the Leafs will really turn the heat on themselves to make a significant move.
But as they spin their wheels closer to last place in the conference than a playoff spot (six points out of eighth), it's not looking much brighter on the reinforcements front. While the injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Dion Phaneuf and Colby Armstrong are coming back by early in December, none are snipers.
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, with 25 saves last night, has now received two goals or less support in six of 10 starts.
"We need to compete more on the road," centre Tim Brent agreed before the game. "It's always easier to play at home (where the Leafs have won three straight) because you're just more comfortable. You have to up your compete level here, because now you're playing the other team that is comfortable. You don't get your line matchups, so you have to be that much better."
But the Leafs fell into a familiar pattern on Saturday. While more disciplined after their early meltdown in Buffalo, the first Ottawa goal came on a bad clear by Mike Komisarek on the power play with Fredrik Sjostrom in the box. The second and third goals by Mike Fisher, were both on well-executed odd-man rushes, one from a shot block, the other on a pinch by defenceman Brett Lebda, who was only trying to spark something at that stage of the game.
After Nazem Kadri and Mikhail Grabovksi looked slow coming back on Fisher's first goal, coach Ron Wilson started breaking up lines again. He reserved the right to make some of those permanent for Tuesday's game against Steve Stamkos and the Lightning.
Before the game, Schenn agreed with Brent about rewarding the fans who come the furthest.
"We need to win in the division and it would be nice to do it with that support on the road. It's great to be in a divisional opponent's building and see half the fans in Leafs colours.
"A lot of the people you talk to in the lobby of the hotel say it's so tough to get tickets in Toronto that they want to come out here and see us play. It shows you the kind of support we have."
We'll see for how that lasts if the zeroes keep appearing.