Avalanche buries Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs' Mats Sundin (left) and Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic battle for position during...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Mats Sundin (left) and Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic battle for position during second period action Wednesday night in Toronto. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

Maybe the Maple Leafs should put a stop to these glitzy pre-game ceremonies honouring their greats of today and yesteryear.

We're not suggesting that Borje Salming did not deserve having his number hoisted to the rafters on opening night against the Ottawa Senators.

Or that the Leafs organization should not have made such a nice presentation to Mats Sundin last night for scoring career goal No. 500 on the weekend.

Both earned the recognition they received.

But perhaps the team's luck would change if such festivities were held after the games, not before.

Not to offer up a conspiracy theory here, but consider the facts.

The Leafs have lost just two games in regulation time thus far.

The first was a 4-1 defeat to the Ottawa Senators on the night of the Salming love-in.

The second came last night when the visiting Colorado Avalanche spoiled Mats-mania at the Air Canada Centre with a 4-1 win.

In reality, this loss had little to do with the festivities prior to the game.

It had everything to do with a misfiring power play that has scored just five times in the team's first seven outings.

Not to mention some sloppy work in the defensive end.

"I think, more than anything, we were sluggish after not having played for a few days," Sundin said. "I hope that's the reason anyway."

The Leafs' previous game was a 5-4 victory over the Calgary Flames Saturday, the night Sundin notched his milestone marker.

"We didn't have the pace or the intensity that we've had in previous games," he said. "We've played seven games and I think this was our weakest one, so we've just got to get out there and play better."

The Leafs came out of the gates with a flourish, hitting the scoreboard just 122 seconds after the opening faceoff when Bates Battaglia notched his second goal of the season.

But the Avs seemed to control most of the remaining 58 minutes and rode a pair of goals from John-Michael Liles and singles by Brett McLean and Milan Hejduk to victory.

The Leafs did feel they were hard done by when the apparent go-ahead goal was waved off early in the second during a wild goal-mouth scramble. The score was 1-1 at the time.

"I don't know what the logic was for not counting it," said Jeff O'Neill, who appeared to shove goalie Peter Budaj's arm over the goal line with the puck under it.

"Matt Stajan was nearby and he said he saw it go in."

Instead of having a 2-1 lead, the Leafs watched Colorado score the next three goals to snatch the win.

Coach Paul Maurice said his team stopped skating after peppering Budaj, the former St. Mike's Major, in the game's early moments.

If the capacity crowd of 19,463 had a difficult time identifying many of the players in the Colorado lineup, they certainly had a legitimate reason to be confused.

There are plenty of big names who have left the two-time Stanley Cup winners since the Avs last made an appearance in Toronto during the 2003-04 season.

Gone are forwards Peter Forsberg, Alex Tanguay, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne and defencemen Rob Blake and Adam Foote, an all-star cast if ever there was one.

Yet this younger, more inexperienced Avs squad still found a way to force the Leafs into mistakes.

The young defence tandem of Ian White and Jay Harrison struggled as did veterans Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle, who logged about 30 minutes each.

Asked if that was too much ice time, Maurice replied: "It is because it was primarily in our end of the ice.

"I would like to play them a little less."


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