Senators by a touchdown

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators have not eliminated the Maple Leafs from the playoffs in four post-season meetings but last night they did the next best thing.

With yet another humiliating beating of the Leafs, this time 7-0 after outscoring Toronto 16-2 in their previous two matches, the Senators dropped the Leafs out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

"I know if we play like this, we are not going to make the playoffs, simple as that," captain Mats Sundin said after the Leafs lost their fifth in a row. "I don't even look at the standings. I am concerned with the way we are playing.

"We're insecure when we have the puck, we are making all kinds of mistakes. Five guys just trying to get the puck out of our end seems like a victory. That is not how you win games in this league."

The Leafs tumbled to ninth place in the conference with 51 points after the Tampa Bay Lightning blanked the Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta has 52 points, Tampa 53.

Toronto, which lost 8-2 and 8-0 to Ottawa in the past two clashes, has 35 games remaining in the regular season.

The Leafs are buried in their longest losing streak in coach Pat Quinn's tenure and whether one agrees, questions regarding Quinn's future are being raised. But Sundin didn't concur with the idea Quinn has lost the dressing room. Quinn is not concerned about his own status.

"You don't worry about that," Quinn said. "I am worried about 23 guys. The Phoenix game (a 4-3 loss to the Coyotes on Jan. 14 in which Toronto had a 3-0 lead after one period) and the way that came about, having the game in full control and giving it away, seems to have done some severe damage psychologically to a group of guys and we haven't been able to pull out of it. There is no magic wand."

It's hard to see how they will pull out of it tomorrow night in another game against the Senators, who had their 1,000th game in team history last night, at Scotiabank Place. A Sens record crowd of 20,093 watched the line of Daniel Alfredsson (two goals and one assist), Jason Spezza (one goal and two assists)and Dany Heatley (one goal and two assists) blow the Leafs away. Mike Fisher, with two, and Peter Schaefer also scored for Ottawa. Dominik Hasek made 23 saves for his fourth shutout.

The Senators, 5-0 against the Leafs this season, had six even-strength goals and one shorthanded. Jason Allison, Alexander Khavanov and Tomas Kaberle all were minus-4. The rout began at the 39-second mark of the game when Nik Antropov and Aki Berg conspired to give the puck to Spezza, who then fed Alfredsson.

"It's definitely fun playing the Leafs," Spezza, a Toronto native, said. "We have a lot of respect for them and it is why we get up for them. They're a measuring stick for us."

Despite the frailty of his teammates, Sundin is confident this skid can be stopped. Just two weeks ago, the Leafs had a six-game winning streak end.

"We're far away from that team," Sundin said. "Every team goes through adversity and we are there right now. I believe with all my heart we have a good enough team to make the playoffs, but we have to turn this thing around now."

REPORT CARD

F Forwards: No creativity, no cohesiveness and no pressure. No chance.

F Defence: Be sure to watch the TV show Lost on Wednesday. The Leafs defence corps will make a guest appearance.

F Goaltending: Ed Belfour did not get much support, but he is not doing much to help the cause either.


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