Leafs give it away, again

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:55 PM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- We could try and add up the number of silly giveaways the Maple Leafs commited on their rather forgettable two-game swing through the American heartland this week.

Unfortunately, because there have been so many, even a mathematician couldn't complete the calculations by press time.

As if they were playing with blindfolds knotted over their eyes, the lackadaisical Leafs continued their penchant of bad turnovers en route to their season-high fourth consecutive loss.

Coach Pat Quinn was bristling behind the bench after his team's 5-3 defeat to the Minnesota Wild last night, and with good reason. No matter how much he preaches to his players to keep it simple, they just don't seem to listen.

And now, after watching his team drop five of its past six outings, Quinn leads his team into Ottawa for back-to-back games Saturday and Monday.

Just imagine how the Senators must be drooling at the chance to rough up the Leafs again, especially after watching game films of Toronto's previous two outings -- 5-3 setbacks to the Wild and Colorado Avalanche.

If the Leafs keep up their sloppy ways against an Ottawa team that has outscored them 16-2 in their past two meetings, it could be a long weekend for Quinn and co. in Bytown.

"Our defence is jittery right now and we have to work our way through it," Quinn said. "Even our so-called veterans are making those sorts of (careless) plays.

"Our defencemen are turning the puck over right now and we are paying the price for it."

This recent swoon is having a damaging effect for the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.

Thanks to their 5-2 triumph over the Dallas Stars last night, the Atlanta Thrashers leapfrogged both the Leafs and New Jersey Devils into sixth place in the east with 52 points.

The Leafs and Devils find themselves occupying the final two playoff spots with 51 points each.

Yes, the Leafs do miss the injured Bryan McCabe on the back end.

But they also need Tomas Kaberle to pick up his game in McCabe's absence, and that simply wasn't the case last night.

The Wild scored a pair of power-play goals, none more devastating to Toronto's aspirations than Marc Chouinard's marker late in the second period that put Minnesota up 3-2.

Put the goat horns for this one on Kaberle.

With the game knotted at 2-2, Kaberle lazily coughed up the puck near his own blue line, then immediately hauled down the Minnesota player. With Kaberle sitting in the penalty box, Chouinard put the Wild ahead for good.

"I felt pretty good out there but the game didn't go the way I wanted," Kaberle said. "We had problems making the easy plays out of the zone. And we keep taking penalties. I took two myself.

"These things have to stop."

After a shaky outing by incumbent Ed Belfour in Denver Tuesday, Mikael Tellqvist got the nod to start against the struggling Wild, a team that had dropped its previous three outings -- all on home ice.

In what is proving to be a roller-coaster season for Toronto, Tellqvist has been one of the Leafs' more pleasant surprises.

So much so, in fact, that Quinn said yesterday that the young Swede's workload might increase in the second half of the season.

"I would like to be a No. 1 goalie one day," Tellqvist said. "Right now I'm just taking it one step at a time."

Chouinard led the way with a pair of goals for the Wild while Kurtis Foster, Marian Gaborik and Wes Walz added singles.

Matt Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jason Allison replied for Toronto.


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