Leafs fall just short

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

OTTAWA -- It was the type of pond hockey better suited to be played on a frozen Rideau Canal.

Yet even if they were bundled up in parkas and mittens out on the world's largest skating rink, the Maple Leafs still might not be able to beat Dominik Hasek in a shootout.

Seven years after thwarting the Canadian Olympic team in a shootout for the Czech Republic at the Nagano Winter Games, Hasek now has foiled the Leafs twice in three games under the format recently adopted by the NHL.

First came the season-opening 3-2 shootout victory by Hasek's Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre, one in which Toronto's shooters failed to score on both of their one-on-one attempts.

Last night they went 0-for-3 against the Dominator, leaving them on the short end of a dramatic 6-5 decision in front of 18,680 entertained fans at the Corel Centre.

Dany Heatley sealed the deal by beating Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour for the only goal in the shootout, a concept Leafs coach Pat Quinn feels is better suited for the likes of British soccer stars David Beckham and Frank Lampard.

"I'm on record as saying I don't like it," said Quinn, sporting stitches near his left eye after being sliced open by a high stick during the wide-open affair. "No other sport does it except soccer."

Eric Lindros, Kyle Wellwood and Jason Allison failed in their shootout attempts against Hasek.

Heatley, meanwhile, beat Belfour for the second time in two shootout tries.

"I just try to take what he gives me, and I'm not saying any more," Heatley said.

A frustrated Belfour refused to lash out despite twice ending up the short end in a shootout against the Sens in a six-day span.

"It doesn't make any difference to me," he said.

But it does make a difference in the standings.

Instead of gaining their first victory in three tries this season, the struggling Leafs remain winless and find themselves already four points behind the Sens in the Northeast Division standings.

At least the Leafs showed some heart in coming back.

Trailing 4-2 after 40 minutes, the Leafs exploded for three goals in a span of 1:55 to take a 5-4 lead. Tie Domi, Clarke Wilm and Nik Antropov did the damage, making Hasek look rather ordinary in the process.

But budding superstar Jason Spezza quickly equalled the score at 5-5 at 9:27, notching his second of the game by knocking the puck past Belfour during a goal-mouth scramble to set up the dramatic finish.

Joining Spezza in the Ottawa goal-scoring parade were Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Neil.

After watching his team squander a third-period lead for the third consecutive game, Quinn ripped his defence for standing around.

"Whether it was pond hockey out there or not, you need big saves to win games and (Belfour) did that," he said.

"But we've got two guys sitting with their fingers in the wrong place."


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