February 15, 2012
Leafs drop fourth straight
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Deep down inside, beneath the smile, the accommodating interviews and the trademark, “I really enjoyed my time here,” Dion Phaneuf probably wishes he never sets foot in the (bleepin’) Saddledome again.
Neither do the rest of the Maple Leafs, for that matter.
On a night in which the Leafs lost their fourth consecutive outing thanks in part to the heroics of Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, Toronto probably left the building wondering if they’ll ever win here again.
They have reason to feel that way.
After all, the Flames’ 5-1 victory over the visiting Leafs marked the sixth consecutive loss Toronto has suffered in Calgary, a string of futility that dates back almost a decade.
Indeed, the Leafs have not posted a win in Cowtown since Dec. 27, 2002. On that particular evening, they squeezed past the host Flames 3-2.
How long ago was that? Consider that Jonas Hoglund scored the deciding goal for the Leafs and Trevor Kidd was the winning goalie.
Yes, THAT Trevor Kidd.
The Leafs remain in eighth place in the East, one point up on idle Washington and three ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, who blew an excellent opportunity to close the gap on Toronto by dropping a 3-1 decision to the New York Islanders.
Having said that, the road through Western Canada does not get any easier for the Leafs, who are mired in their first four-game losing skid of the campaign, a season worst for coach Ron Wilson’s team.
“It’s imperative that we snap out of this,” said Phaneuf, who finished minus-1. “We have to turn this around quickly.”
On Wednesday night, the Leafs will face off against the sizzling Sam Gagner and the young, speedy Oilers up the road in Alberta. Then it’s off to Vancouver for a Saturday night encounter against a Canucks team that is one of the hottest in the league.
Phaneuf was making his second appearance in Calgary against the Flames since being acquired in a seven-player blockbuster on Jan. 31, 2010. As a result, he was the focus of the media after the morning skate, hosting a scrum of about 25 reporters in a Q&A session that lasted 15 minutes.
“I get booed in a lot of buildings,” Phaneuf grinned when asked what the crowd’s reaction would be. “I’m sure it will be much of the same.
“(Calgary) is going to be a special place anytime I do come back and play here … But I’m extremely happy where I’m at. It’s been a great move for me, personally, and I’m extremely excited about the team that we have here and the direction that we’re going.”
Phaneuf might have to refine that last statement. Because right now, the direction his team is going is down.
“They came out hard, pushed us and we could never recover,” Phaneuf said after the game.
Phaneuf was on the ice when the Flames opened the scoring at 4:43 of the first period to go up 1-0. The goal came off the stick of Alex Tanguay, who beat Jonas Gustavsson to the far corner.
After Olli Jokinen put the Flames up by two goals, the Leafs seemed to get a spark when Tyler Bozak drained a rebound past Kiprusoff with less than four minutes remaining before intermission to narrow the gap to 2-1.
But when Paul Byron broke into the clear midway through the second, Phaneuf was forced to hook him, leading to a penalty shot. Byron converted his subsequent one-on-one chance against Gustavsson, putting Calgary up 3-1.
Blake Comeau and Jarome Iginla then finished off the scoring late in the third to seal the 5-1 Calgary victory, leaving the Leafs with a number of pressing questions.
For example, which goalie will be No. 1? Neither Gustavsson nor James Reimer, who was lit up in a 5-0 loss to Montreal on Saturday, have looked like one of late.
There was a lot of buzz out of Toronto on Tuesday that the Leafs will make a play for Rick Nash. Maybe that’s the case, but GM Brian Burke is reluctant to sell off a cache of his top prospects for just one player.
Besides, right now, the Leafs have more pressing issues on their plate.