Even Islanders embarrass Leafs

Maple Leafs fans wear paper bags on their heads during their game against the Islanders at the Air...

Maple Leafs fans wear paper bags on their heads during their game against the Islanders at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., March 20, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

TORONTO - Both ends of the Eastern Conference have had a good time at the expense of the Maple Leafs the past 48 hours.

And that has people raising voices, from the paying customers who booed them off the ice at the Air Canada Centre, to the dressing room where the perpetrators held a long team meeting to hash out their wicked ways.

After a third-period collapse in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Islanders, the night after an 8-0 shellacking in Boston, the players met almost 20 minutes, well past the mandated time to open the dressing room. Most skedaddled when the media arrived.

"We're trying to figure out where we go from here," said winger Joey Crabb, who stayed to face the music. "Some words were said ... Let's keep it between (the players)."

Coach Randy Carlyle did address the downcast group, asked a few questions and then waited for feedback.

"It wasn't my message, I was listening to what they had to say, how they felt about what was going on," said Carlyle, whose team's playoff lifeline only has a few days to run.

Carlyle would only reveal the players' great "disappointment" at having made some strides during wins last week in Tampa Bay and Ottawa and then have it all fall apart against the Bruins and Isles.

In Boston, the Leafs didn't show up, on Monday they were tied until late in the third period, then became deer in the headlights. In both games, they managed less than 15 shots and showed little of the speed that once put them in playoff position.

The Islanders -- the league's 27th-place team -- openly talked of the Leafs being fragile, with 19,351 boo-birds adding to their misery. A "Fire Burkie" chant went up in the dying minutes for the general manager to pay for a fourth straight dark spring under his watch. It didn't really catch on like the tar-and-feather Ron Wilson sentiment of a few weeks ago, but the ACC's ire was unmistakable.

"Obviously, it's frustrating for the fans and totally understandable," Crabb said of the crowd getting restless at another lost year. "I don't think we have a lot of answers.

"We had (two one-goal leads) and we didn't finish them off. Good teams do that. Teams that are struggling, team that don't succeed, those are the ones that fold up and we kind of folded up tonight."

Captain Dion Phaneuf could not add much in terms of uplifting messages, except to say, "There's no quit in our room ... We're not looking past this year. We have to stick together and play through this. Everyone's frustrated, the fan are frustrated, we're frustrated."

Eight games remain for the Leafs, including a tough back-to-back this weekend against the other two New York-area teams, the better ones, the Devils and Rangers.

Toronto managed just 14 shots in its seventh game in 11 nights, while the Islanders finally clicked on their fourth power play with 6:04 to play to take the lead. It came with Matt Frattin in the box for firing a puck in the crowd in a panic clearing attempt, after Toronto had won the faceoff as Carlyle noted as a symptom of their problems

Local products Matt Moulson and John Tavares teamed up for the winning goal, then another frequent foul-up repeated itself. A Phil Kessel turnover ended up behind James Reimer when the backpedaling Jake Gardiner made the wrong move to angle off the breaking P.A. Parenteau. A Moulson empty-netter, completing a seven-point night for the line, ended the Leafs' hope of sweeping the Isles in all four games.

Kessel did tie his career high of 36 goals to open the scoring, while Carter Ashton and Crabb had great third period chances to take the lead on Evgeni Nabokov. But the Isles have now moved to within a point of the 12th-place Leafs in the East.

Matthew Lombardi, in his 500th NHL game, produced just his second goal since Jan. 23. He collected a Gardiner shot behind the Isles' goal, spun to the front and tricked Nabokov into opening the five-hole. But the Leafs, with just 10 shots through two periods as well as a power play, could not sustain any momentum.


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