Leafs take loss on the chin

MIKE ZEISBERGER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

MONTREAL -- A subdued Darcy Tucker quietly slinked out of the Maple Leafs dressing room last night, opting not to discuss the heart-wrenching loss his team had just absorbed.

Who could blame him?

This one, after all, stung in more ways than one.

First off, he had been dropped by a roundhouse right thrown by the Montreal Canadiens' Francis Bouillon during a first period skirmish.

Then he and his Leafs teammates absorbed a collective blow to the gut from Saku Koivu and the rest of the Canadiens, who overcame a 3-1 deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation en route to a dramatic 4-3 shootout victory over Tucker and Co.

"We didn't make too many mistakes out there, but we are still squeezing (the sticks)," coach Paul Maurice said.

"The (5-0) loss to Atlanta (Thursday) was tough. This one hurt more, though."

While the Leafs did manage to salvage a point, they still find themselves on a season-high four-game winless skid.

The 675th regular season meeting between the Leafs and Habs was a chippy affair, one highlighted by the electrifying right hook chucked by Bouillon.

The Bouillon-Tucker incident ignited when the Habs defenceman smashed diminutive Kyle Wellwood against the boards as the Toronto forward was trying to squeeze past him down the wing.

Seeing that Wellwood had been lifted right off his feet, Tucker made a beeline for the unsuspecting Bouillon and wallpapered him against the boards.

"That's Darcy for you, always willing to come to the aid of his teammates," Wellwood said. "We all know that and appreciate that about him."

Once he regained his feet, an incensed Bouillon began throwing punches. And when Tucker finally decided to reciprocate, Bouillon unleashed The Blow Heard 'Round La Belle Province.

"It felt good, not only for me, but for a lot of people," Bouillon said.

CHEAP SHOT

"What (Tucker) did to me was a cheap shot but I still respect him. I would take him on my team if I was a GM."

Having scored just twice in the previous three games, the Leafs equalled that in the first 12:09 last night on goals by Ian White and Mats Sundin.

After Alexander Perezhogin scored for the Canadiens in the second, Wellwood put the Leafs up 3-1 early in the third, snapping Toronto's 0-for-17 power-play funk.

"There are 10 minutes left, we are outshooting them something like 33-15 and you find yourself wondering if it's going to be 4-1 or 5-1," Maurice said.

Instead, Koivu narrowed it to 3-2 with less than half a period to go. And when White received a delay of game penalty for inadvertently flicking the puck over the glass a couple of minutes later, Koivu tied things up on the ensuing power play, setting the stage for the Habs shootout victory.

Koivu and Sundin traded goals in the shootout before Sheldon Souray scored the winner.

"That's the downfall of the new rules," White said of his penalty. "Sometimes they are your best friend, sometimes they're not."

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REPORT CARD

B Forwards: Finally showed some life, peppering Habs goalie Cristobal Huet with nine shots in the first eight minutes.

B Defence: Played a solid game and moved the puck much more crisply up the ice than they did in Thursday's 5-0 loss to Atlanta.

B Goaltending: Andrew Raycroft was on top of his game for most of the night but couldn't stop Saku Koivu's goal-scoring heroics late in the third.


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