What could have, and should have, been

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:43 PM ET


 When time ran out on the Maple Leafs last night, Alexander Mogilny smashed his stick in frustration and quickly left the Wachovia Center ice.

 The broken blade, like the puck, went nowhere near the Philadelphia net.

 It was that kind of evening for the Leafs. And it has become that kind of series for what are now the underdog Leafs. "We all felt like that," Tie Domi said. "We all felt what he was feeling."

 Angry, frustrated and believing they deserved better, the Leafs flew home late last night with this second-round playoff series very much in peril. They did everything last night but kill penalties, score on their chances and even up their playoff series with the Philadelphia Flyers.

 Everything but get a win.

 Mogilny, playing with an uncooperative hip and without any semblance of good fortune, had every reason to be disappointed, with the puck on his stick in the final seconds, the Leafs trailing by a goal, and goaltender Robert Esche sprawling awkwardly. But his shot never made it to the open Flyers net.

 "Somebody blocked it," said Esche, the neophyte playoff goaltender, of one of his defencemen. "I didn't see it. I can see why (he was frustrated). He hit the post in the first game. He's a skill guy. He usually scores on that kind of play."

 SCORING

 But scoring the Leafs aren't doing. Not here. Not in this rink. Not this playoff season or last playoff season. For those scoring at ringside, this is five consecutive Philadelphia playoff games in which the Leafs have mustered only one goal. Two games this year. Three last year. All of them defeats.

 Few of them as painful or damaging as last night's 2-1 loss.

 Afterward, Mogilny was the first Leaf to rush from the dressing room, leading the parade of the battered. Mats Sundin played hurt. Darcy Tucker continues to play hurt. Bryan McCabe was on the limp in the dressing room. Joe Nieuwendyk didn't play. The Leafs are running out of time and bodies and too many of the healthy ones aren't providing enough.

 Sundin returned to provide the Leafs with an emotional and offensive lift but for all he created, none of it resulted in the tying goal.

 He put a perfect pass on the stick of Clarke Wilm, the surprising callup who had set up Toronto's only score, with about four minutes left to play potentially could have tied the game.

 HAD A CHANCE

 "It was a great play by Mats," said Wilm, playing only his second Stanley Cup game. "I thought I had a chance to get it up over top of (Esche). I just hit him in the shoulder.

 "I'd like to have it back. I'll be thinking about that for the next few days, that's for sure."

 The Leafs will be thinking about it, too. The fact they didn't tie a game in which they had enough chances to do so. The fact that moral victories count for nothing at this time of year. The fact they outplayed the Flyers in what might have been their most complete period of the playoffs, outshooting Philadelphia 11-1 in the second period last night, and didn't take the game away in the process.

 "Two power play goals," muttered Domi, who quietly challenged his teammates to do more. But you can't win most nights when you score only once.

 Mogilny has scored just one goal in nine playoff games, which is one more than seven of the Leaf forwards have managed in the post-season. If that continues, the Leafs are playing on borrowed time.

 At least Wilm was there, making a difference.

 The kind of difference Mogilny wanted to make, thought he should make, the broken stick at the end indicating all too loudly that he came up short. 


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