Leafs come up small

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:01 PM ET

Early in last night's third period, Pat Quinn traded his snappy blue suit in for a lab coat and safety glasses and began experimenting with offensive chemistry.

A puff of smoke came up when he compounded Eric Lindros with Mats Sundin for a goal, but it was the only bang the lethargic Leafs made in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, their third consecutive one-goal loss.

The pairing of the club's two top centres, long debated around town but resisted by Quinn, gave 19,394 fans at the Air Canada Centre something else to talk about than booing the Leafs most of the night for blowing all seven power plays.

Voices also were raised in the dressing room after the defeat, a closed door players meeting called by captain Sundin to dissect the first three-game regulation losing streak of the year, with just two goals the past two games.

"That's not enough to win games in this league and you need to shake it up," Sundin said of playing with Lindros on the left side and Darcy Tucker on the right. "(Quinn) tried to change all four and that's sometimes what you need. I'm not desperate, but when you lose three games at home ... hopefully we can keep some of the (momentum) we had in the third period and carry it (to tomorrow's game here against Anaheim)."

Lindros took most of the faceoffs, but on the goal, No. 88 found the big Swede going down the right side for a five-hole drive through Marty Turco. Sundin ended his six-game goalless skid.

"Mats is obviously a heck of a hockey player, he's always looking to bust up ice," Lindros said. "I've got to find him the puck and get in there to help him score."

Quinn, who used the pair for one shift a few games ago, was coy about continuing the move tomorrow. It would allow him to put rookie sensation Alex Steen back in some kind of Kid Line role with Matt Stajan and the slumping Kyle Wellwood.

"That was one of the few heads-up plays we made all night," Quinn said of the goal, the only one of 20 shots to elude Turco. "(Dallas) knows how to check and typical of us of late, as we tried to create offence, we got very individual.

"We were searching for something. (Permanent line changes) are possible. We're still trying to come up with combinations that have a bit of a blend, not three individuals.

"I guess we'll be searching again."

REPORT CARD

C- Forwards: Generated few quality chances until the lines were changed late in the game. Seven power plays were wasted. Sundin scored, Kyle Wellwood came close, but Jeff O'Neill continues his slump.

C- Defence: Problems were not limited to mix-ups between Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle. Breakouts and puck control were major issues.

B- Goaltending: Belfour could not overcome some gaffes but was otherwise solid.


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