Leafs fall flat

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:30 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- The Maple Leafs managed to avoid getting torched by superb rookie Alexander Ovechkin last night, but that about sums up the positives for the Toronto side.

The Leafs, who face the red-hot New Jersey Devils at home tonight, are embroiled in a tight race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But most observers wouldn't have guessed that given the horrible and lazy effort against the Washington Capitals, which resulted in 4-1 loss in a half-empty MCI Center.

Facing a club that has no post-season hopes, the Leafs didn't show up against a group of Caps that, for the most part, are not well-known outside of their immediate families.

"We got outworked, that's the bottom line," Darcy Tucker said. "Their team came to play. We needed to push back and we did not do that. It's very disappointing. We can't give up anything right now.

"We're in a dogfight."

The Leafs have lost 10 of their past 11 games and are clinging to the final playoff berth in the East. Perhaps it hasn't hit them that there is a slight possibility they are not as good as they think they are.

They held Ovechkin to one assist, but since when do teams get beaten soundly by the Capitals?

Even Washington coach Glen Hanlon said it was "likely our best overall game of the season."

It's as though the Leafs looked at the standings and figured a half-assed effort would have been enough.

"I hope that is not the case but we had some empty suits," coach Pat Quinn said. "We could not get anything going with any passion."

To further compound the Leafs' woes another defenceman was injured early and left the game. This time it was Ken Klee, who suffered what is thought to be a left ankle sprain when he caught a rut in the ice midway through the first period.

Already out indefinitely are Alexander Khavanov (foot), Aki Berg (ribs) and Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion), all of whom have been hurt in the past two weeks.

That left veterans Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle with rookies Staffan Kronwall, Andy Wozniewski and Jay Harrison, who now have combined for 40 NHL games.

"It would be easy to say (it was) the kids, but when we lost Klee early I thought the three played pretty good on defence and our veterans did not do very well," Quinn said.

Mike Green, with his first NHL goal, Brooks Laich, Ben Clymer and Chris Clark scored for the Capitals.

Mats Sundin, who opened the scoring at 15:06 of the first period, had Toronto's goal.

McCabe had a battle going throughout the evening with Ovechkin but later complimented the 20-year-old.

"He's a great player and that is why I like him so much," McCabe said. "He is not a guy who dances around you. He shows a lot of aggression. He finished me a bunch of times.

"We kept him (from scoring) but it didn't matter much. I don't know what it was, but we weren't good. Thank God there is another game (tonight)."

REPORT CARD

C- Forwards: Scoring chances were scarce and it was not because the Capitals are brimming with Norris Trophy candidates. The lack of chemistry among Leafs' forwards is alarming.

C- Defence: One man down for nearly the whole game with three rookies. The defence corps fared about as well as could have been expected.

C- Goaltending: Ed Belfour made a good save on Eric Fehr in the third period on a breakaway, but a minute later allowed Ben Clymer to beat him from a bad angle. Not good.


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