Bell tolls for Leafs' hopes

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

MONTREAL -- It hasn't digressed into the circus of the Harold Ballard years.

Yet.

But the bizarre and disorganized actions of the Maple Leafs, both on the ice and in the front office yesterday, certainly left observers asking if this was a rudderless ship.

Bad enough that in this, the Leafs' most important game of the season, they turned in a stinker at the Bell Centre.

But by the time the host Montreal Canadiens skated to the dressing room for the first intermission with a 4-0 lead, the legions of disgusted Leaf fans in the upper deck probably wanted to board their buses and head back to Toronto.

It appeared some of the players already had done that anyway.

"We've had enough closed door meetings," a disappointed Darcy Tucker said following the 5-1 loss. "The score says it all."

Asked if this was the lowest point in his years with the Leafs, Tucker shrugged his shoulders.

"We're trying to stick together in the dressing room and do the proper things," he said. "But we're not in the playoffs, so yeah, it's frustrating."

Goalie Mikael Tellqvist was shaky, but so, too, were his teammates, who find themselves six points behind eighth-place Atlanta and five points behind the No. 9 Habs in the Eastern Conference standings.

"We have to play better. I have to play better," he said.

Meanwhile, the perceived miscommunication between coach Pat Quinn and general manager John Ferguson was just as strange.

After the morning skate, Quinn said he was unaware of a report on the Leafs' own website quoting Ferguson saying Ed Belfour was "unlikely" to return this season.

Quinn did not elaborate on the status of the goalie, who was placed on the long-term injured list later in the day.

Ferguson, meanwhile, told reporters later that Quinn was, in fact, in the know about Belfour's condition with the exception of his inclusion on the long-term injury list.

"He is very aware of what transpired with Eddie and he has been talking directly to Eddie as well," Ferguson said of Quinn.

For his part, Quinn insisted after the game that the lines of communication between he and Ferguson are fine. He added that no final decision has been made on Belfour's status.

This is not the first time the two have seemed to have had their wires crossed.

During a January practice in Colorado, Quinn said he had heard from "a source that was not necessarily reliable" that injured defenceman Bryan McCabe had a slight groin tear. The injury was legit, but Ferguson, for some reason, would not confirm it until 48 hours later.

Chris Higgins, Mathieu Dandenault, Sheldon Souray, Alexei Kovalev and Alexander Perezhogin scored for the Habs in front of the capacity crowd of 21,273, who may be anticipating a similar thrashing when the two teams meet again here tomorrow night.

Jeff O'Neill had the Leafs goal in the second period.

Even if the Leafs win that one, the embarrassing follies that went on yesterday will be difficult to forget.


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