More misery for Leafs

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

A wild and woolly return to the Air Canada Centre gave Maple Leafs fans a few occasions to cheer last night but the end result was yet another loss for their diminishing heroes.

In their first home game since losing four in a row on the road, the Leafs' losing streak was extended to seven with a 8-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

"There's the old saying that when it gets tough the tough get going," said goalie Ed Belfour, who was sarcastically cheered off the ice when he was yanked after allowing four goals on 16 shots. "You have to work your way through these things. It's always discouraging when things don't go your way. "(The fans) are frustrated just like the rest of us."

The Leafs were good at times and even caught up to a one-goal deficit entering the third period before penalty trouble killed their hopes of a complete recovery, as the Sabres scored two power-play goals to go up 7-4.

The skid is the Leafs' longest since January 1997, when they also lost seven in a row. When the Leafs most recently lost eight in a row, in 1996, coach Pat Burns was fired.

Coach Pat Quinn this week was given a vote of confidence by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. board chairman Larry Tanenbaum, so if any changes are on the horizon, it likely will involve players. General manager John Ferguson has been shopping Jason Allison without finding a dance partner, but the need to acquire a defenceman may have become more acute last night.

Aki Berg suffered a rib injury and did not play after the first period. Rookie Andy Wozniewski, in his second NHL game and filling in for the concussed Carlo Colaiacovo, was a team-low minus-4. Berg will be re-evaluated today.

The Leafs, who play host to the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night, remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Atlanta Thrashers.

After a few days which included calls for Quinn's head and public musing about trading Sundin, the Leafs had 37 shots on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, but defensively were not good.

Belfour, who was left in for all seven goals in a 7-0 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, was pulled for the second time this season. Mikael Tellqvist gave up three goals on 15 shots.

"We just felt like maybe we needed to make a change," Quinn said. "I think we always held it as a possibility right from the start that there would come a time (when) there might be less hockey for Ed, but I don't know that we are there yet.

You have to approach everything with some flexibility."

Quinn put Mats Sundin on the point during Leafs power plays, and it resulted in a power-play assist for the captain and a bit more pep for the unit as a whole. The Leafs scored two power-play goals for the second time in 10 games.

Alex Steen, with two goals, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Alexander Khavanov scored for Toronto. Thomas Vanek, with two, Jochen Hecht, Derek Roy, Brian Campbell, Jason Pominville, Chris Drury and Jay McKee scored for Buffalo.

"You can say we played better, but when you still lose it is not fun," Leafs forward Matt Stajan said. "We can't get down on ourselves. We have to turn this thing around."


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