Time for a break

Toronto Maple Leaf practice at the Air Canada Center today under the watchful eye of coach Pat...

Toronto Maple Leaf practice at the Air Canada Center today under the watchful eye of coach Pat Quinn needing to cut players eventually from the training camp roster. (SUN/Stan Behal)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

There is a good chance Pat Quinn will return from Italy in a couple of weeks having coached Canada to another gold medal in the Olympics, but he will have done so with a bitter taste in his mouth.

That's because the stark reality of his real job will not only follow him to Europe, but eat away at him wherever he goes.

The spiralling Maple Leafs officially entered their Olympic break last night in a bad way, losing 4-2 to the New York Rangers for the second consecutive night.

Toronto, which is in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 59 points, one behind the Montreal Canadiens, has lost 12 of its past 15 games, including one in overtime and one in a shootout. One point back of the Leafs are the Boston Bruins.

"This won't leave (once he gets to Turin)," Quinn said. "As experienced as I am with teams, you still don't have all the answers as to what has gone on here in the past three or four weeks.

"If the Olympics weren't here, I would be very happy to be staying and continue to try to solve some situations."

The Leafs actually were not overly bad last night. Before a crowd of 19,417 at the Air Canada Centre, they outshot the Rangers 30-22 and made Toronto native Kevin Weekes, playing goal for New York, earn the victory. But they could do little about Jaromir Jagr, who scored two goals to put him at 40 on the season, a night after he had two goals and an assist against Toronto in Manhattan.

"What can you say about him?" goalie Ed Belfour said. "He has proven time after time he is one of the best players. So any time you give him time and space, he has that knack."

Petr Sykora and Martin Rucinsky also scored for the Rangers, who built a 4-0 lead by the 12:33 mark of the second period. Canadian Olympian-to-be Bryan McCabe (who was not sharp and finished the night minus-2) tied a career high late in the second period with his 17th goal, and Jason Allison got his 10th early in the third.

But Belfour, who had been improved in the past little while, could not cover for his teammates' miscues.

"We really outplayed them until the middle of the second and we were down 4-0," captain Mats Sundin said. "Sometimes you can't figure it out. We have to fight through it."

Although the Leafs will have 25 games to turn around what has been a subpar season when they return on Feb. 28, at home against the Washington Capitals, it won't be an easy task. Expect them to be fighting for their playoff lives until the last night of the regular season.

"I think we all realize there were a lot of good teams in the conference and we have to play our best to earn a playoff spot," Sundin said. "We feel in the dressing room we have a good enough team to make the playoffs. We've seen anything can happen. I think Calgary showed that (when it lost in the Stanley Cup final in 2004)."

REPORT CARD

C Forwards: There was good pressure at times but Toronto native Kevin Weekes was just as solid. Still, more urgency on the Leafs' part would've been nice.

C- Defence: Three of the Rangers' goals were at even-strength. The only defenceman who was not on for a goal against was rookie Staffan Kronwall.

D Goaltending: The Rangers scored four goals on their first 13 shots. Ed Belfour might want to spend the Olympic break on a beach somewhere.


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