Slip, sliding away

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas drops to the ice to make a save as Toronto Maple Leafs center Mats...

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas drops to the ice to make a save as Toronto Maple Leafs center Mats Sundin gets set to shoot in the second period of their NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday, April 6, 2006.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

BOSTON -- Just when the Maple Leafs were ready to twitch their way off the mortuary slab again, they were strapped down by another shootout loss.

For all the good that came out of last night -- another gem from goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin and a last minute goal from a man-on-a-mission Mats Sundin -- the Leafs left their seventh point of the year on the table in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Seven happens to be the difference between Toronto and the eighth-place Tampa Bay Lightning, who defeated Atlanta in a 3-2 shootout that also keeps the Thrashers a point up on the Leafs.

Sundin scored with 13 seconds to play in regulation, but he, Darcy Tucker and Alexei Ponikarovsky were all blanked by Tim Thomas in the shootout.

Coach Pat Quinn again refused to alter his favourite shootout trio, despite their combined paltry 1-for-12 success rate of the past five games and the club's overall won-loss shootout mark of 3-7.

"You've got to play the percentages," said Quinn, who couldn't resist using the captain when he has 11 points in the past seven games, or Tucker, coming off a two-goal night against the Islanders on Wednesday or 21-goal man Ponikarovsky.

At least the Leafs made Thomas work on their shots after Buffalo's Martin Biron barely worked up a sweat. But there were other key letdowns for the Leafs last night that might have allowed them to win in regulation against the 13th place Bruins. The power play was 0-for-3, including an ineffective overtime chance and is in a 4-for-31 slide. Tie Domi and Ben Ondrus missed assignments up ice on Glen Murray's go-ahead goal in the second period.

Aubin was beaten by ex-Leaf Brad Boyes on the lone shootout goal, but had the Leafs been better shootout marksmen this week, he'd be 6-0 in blue and white.

"It's getting frustrating because I'd like to win one for the guys," Aubin said. "It's just not my time. But we stole a point and we have to build on it."

That will be tough tomorrow in Philadelphia, but Aubin and the Leafs won there less than two weeks ago.

Chad Kilger made it back in the lineup after a neck injury the night before in the late win against the Islanders, but he accidentally clipped Tucker in the left eyeball with his stick. Tucker returned with a stitch job and a significant black and blue bruise.

As the Leafs laboured at a half empty TD Banknorth Garden, the worst case scenario unfolded on the out of town board with Tampa, Atlanta and Montreal all getting points.

"We've said since the time we lost the two Montreal games, we won't quit," Tucker said.

With Aubin on the bench for the sixth man, Tucker and Nik Antropov worked the puck to Sundin, who had earlier assisted on Ponikarovsky's first-period backhander. A more recent Toronto expatriate -- Mariusz Czerkawski -- had the first Boston goal. The Leafs had 18 second-period shots, but couldn't solve Thomas.

REPORT CARD

B Forwards: Power play struggled again. Generated lots of chances with hustle on loose pucks. Mats Sundin and Alexei Ponikarovsky are in a groove.

B- Defence: Attention to detail by the defencemen once more kept the Leafs in a big game.

A- Goaltending: In a battle of goaltenders pulled off the minor-league scrap heap, Jean-Sebastien Aubin and Tim Thomas did battle.


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