Leafs in their first slump

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

ATLANTA -- As dozens of hats fluttered down from the Philips Arena stands late in the third period, the fans here began chanting Marian Hossa's name.

All the while, the Maple Leafs were cursing it.

Hossa had just completed his hat trick, driving the final nail into the Leafs' coffin, and the crowd was going bonkers.

The visitors likely heard none of it. They probably were distracted by the alarm bells going off in their own ears.

Yes, the electrifying Hossa was dominant in the Atlanta Thrashers' 5-0 hammering of the Leafs last night, but that should not cloud the issue facing this team.

FIVE OF SEVEN

Having now dropped a season-high three consecutive games and five of their past seven, the Leafs find themselves in their first official slump since Paul Maurice took over as head coach during the off-season.

In what was yet another first, Maurice was asked if his team had "quit" on him, alluding to the four unanswered goals drilled past goalie Andrew Raycroft in the third period.

"We're going to have some ugly nights and this was one of them. But I wouldn't say any player quit on us," said Maurice, whose team has not scored in its past 13 power- play opportunities.

"We're not generating enough and we're not scoring enough to change the tension of the game. It's all on our side."

After humiliating the Washington Capitals 7-1 a week ago, the Leafs managed just two goals in back-to-back losses to the Boston Bruins.

And just when it appeared that the goal-scoring funk could not get any worse, in steps Kari Lehtonen last night to hand the Leafs their first shutout of the season.

"Any time you lose three games in a row, it's frustrating," said captain Mats Sundin, who has seen his team go 0-3 since returning to the lineup from an elbow injury. "We have a lot of work to do.

"RIGHT IN THE MIX'

"We have to get back to the way we were playing. We're right in the mix of things (in the Eastern Conference) and there are a lot of teams in the same position as we are. We have to start winning games again."

Matt Stajan saw limited ice time after a couple of giveaways, but he wasn't the only Leaf who struggled.

With a date against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre tomorrow night, the Leafs had better regain their collective scoring touch -- and fast.

That's not a problem for Hossa, who continued his quest for the Hart Trophy as league MVP with a four-point night. Scott Mellanby and Brad Larsen also scored for Atlanta.

Hossa had never defeated the Leafs since becoming a Thrasher in the summer of 2005, going 0-5 against Toronto heading into last night. In fact, the Thrashers snapped an eight-game losing streak to Toronto thanks in large part to Hossa.

"It was one of those nights where everything goes your way and the puck finds the back of the net," said Hossa, who leads the NHL in goals with 20. "We played a great game. If I get two goals or three goals, that's fine. I'm just happy the team won."


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