Leafs get hammered again

Maple Leafs forward Mike Brown battles for the puck against Panthers forward Stephen Weiss at the...

Maple Leafs forward Mike Brown battles for the puck against Panthers forward Stephen Weiss at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 8, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:33 PM ET

TORONTO - Yes, the Maple Leafs need James Reimer back in net, not doing pre-recorded birthday greetings on the Air Canada Centre board.

But it would help if he could bring a scorer back, too, as the Leafs are suddenly hurting at both ends.

With Tuesday's 5-1 loss to Florida, Toronto has now lost twice in a row for the first time this season, routed by a combined 12-1 at home and plagued by a 138:59 gap in goals from last Thursday in Columbus up to Tuesday's third frame.

"The littlest screw-up is in the net and sometimes it goes in waves," winger Clarke MacArthur said in a nearly deserted Leafs dressing room.

"It's a bump in the road we need to fix. We can't put it on the goalies. We have to score to win."

Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens once more wore hang-dog looks in their cubicles, with reversed roles from Saturday's 7-0 slaughter by the Boston Bruins.

Florida goals came from the likes of Jack Skille, Sean Bergenheim and Shawn Matthias -- hardly Murderers' Row -- with Gustavsson giving up two in 19 seconds. Scrivens surrendered two in the third and the rookie was beating himself up badly afterwards. "I needed to give the guys a chance to win and I didn't hold up my end of the bargain," he said. "My job is to be ready and I felt good all day and even at the end of the second period (down 3-0)."

Gustavsson was given a vote of confidence by coach Ron Wilson after Scrivens started in back-to-back games.

He stopped 18 of the first 19 shots he faced, then the game got away from him.

Gustavsson's misadventures often start when he leaves the comfort of the blue paint and he whiffed on a wraparound, allowing Skille to get past a surprised Leafs defenceman and centre to an open Marco Sturm. A rattled Gustavsson was then beaten on the far post by Tomas Kopecky's shot, which John-Michael Liles might have accidentally tipped.

Reimer is still limited to off-ice workouts with what the club mysteriously refers to as an "upper-body injury."

"I don't know," was Wilson's reply when he was asked when Reimer might be ready to return. "It's up to (Gustavsson and Scrivens) to work on this," he said. "It's tough when you don't give up a scoring chance and the puck still ends up in your net."

As for which of the two deserved to play Thursday in St. Louis, Wilson dryly asked if anyone had new Blues coach Ken Hitchcock's cell phone number so he could tip his hand.

The Leafs were one shot shy of 40 on Jose Theodore, who played very well, but Toronto missed two power plays and some great chances close in during the early stages.

Kessel broke a four-game hex with a third-period goal as his league-leading status is now threatened.

Toronto just lost centre Tim Connolly for two weeks, another disruption to the first line.

"It would be great to have those guys (Reimer, Connolly and winger Colby Armstrong)," Liles said. "But you can't get in the habit of using injuries as an excuse."

There had been some hairy moments in front of the Leafs net right off the bat, as the Toronto players seemed to have learned zilch from the brutal loss to Boston.

Gustavsson was good and lucky, but there was little he could do when Luke Schenn lost a one-on-one puck control duel with Skille, who then spun around for an easy deposit and his first of the year. Schenn had come back from a highly-publicized one-game benching, his first in two years. Cody Franson was back in the stands after waiting two weeks for another chance.

The Panthers had fumbled a 3-0 home lead on Sunday against Tampa Bay, and after losing three straight in overtime, weren't about to let this one get away.

They are holding eighth spot in the East, near the quarter mark of the schedule, trying to eventually end an NHL-high 10-year playoff drought.

Theodore, who had some long nights at the ACC getting bested by Curtis Joseph a decade ago, is enjoying life back in the East with a 5-2 record.

It was just his eighth win against the Leafs in 25 games.

It was also the first time after six shutouts dating back to last year that the Leafs have failed to rebound with a win.


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