Horror show on defence

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

Wasn't Movie Night in Canada supposed to be a thing of the past now that hockey has returned to the CBC every Saturday?

Try telling that to the Maple Leafs, who authored their own horror flick last night starring Aki Berg and Wade Belak.

In what must be a perplexing predicament for coach Pat Quinn just two games into the season, his struggling Buds blew a third-period lead for the second consecutive outing en route to a confidence-crushing 5-4 loss to the rival Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre.

The result spoiled a milestone evening for several Leafs. Rookie Alex Steen scored his first NHL goal, fellow freshman Kyle Wellwood registered his first NHL point and veteran Tie Domi notched the 100th goal of his career.

But those numbers mattered little to the winless Leafs, who once again collapsed as the clock ticked down in regulation.

Late goals by Steve Begin at 13:04 and Mike Ribeiro at 15:33 wiped out a 4-3 Toronto advantage and allowed the Habs to run their unblemished record to 3-0.

The beleaguered defensive duo of Belak and Berg, who each finished minus-3, were on the ice for the final two Habs goals, a disturbing trend that was acknowledged by Quinn.

"Both have good size, good reach and skate well, but they had a tough time tonight," Quinn said. "Clearly defensive zone coverages, especially late in games, is something we have to go back and work on."

The Leafs have just one point to show for in two home games heading into their game with the Ottawa Senators at the Corel Centre tomorrow.

The Senators, of course, were the benefactors of a similar Leafs meltdown during the season-opener Wednesday. Daniel Alfredsson tied that game at 2-2 with just 1:02 remaining in regulation before the Sens won it in a shootout.

Belak, who sat out the Sens game with a spider bite that became infected, returned to the lineup last night. The Leafs swingman, who also has seen time on the forward ranks during his tenure in Toronto, said he had not played an entire game on defence for the Leafs since Christmas of 2003.

"We just got some bad bounces," Belak said, attempting to rationalize why things disintegrated for he and Berg."Otherwise I didn't think we played that poorly."

While that statement certainly is cause for debate, no one could argue about the impact of the team's kiddie corps, featuring Steen, Stajan and Kyle Wellwood.

Steen's second-period goal was a beauty. He picked up the puck in the neutral zone and wheeled all the way to the top of the faceoff circle before finding the short side.

"It's a moment I'll never forget," said Steen, who was handed the souvenir puck by Stajan.

"I just wish it had come in a win."

Alexander Perezhogin, Niklas Sundstrom and Sheldon Souray had the other Montreal goals.

Stajan and Nik Antropov, meanwhile, also scored for the Leafs.

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REPORT CARD

C - Forwards: Eric Lindros delivered in Mats Sundin's place while Matt Stajan scored a nice goal.

D - Defence: Too many Habs wiggled loose in front, though Ken Klee didn't fare poorly in his regular season debut.

C - Goaltending: Ed Belfour was beaten three times on the first 10 shots and had a rough night overall.


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