Leafs a disgrace in loss

Atlanta Thrashers' Shane Hnidy pastes Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matt Stajan into the boards...

Atlanta Thrashers' Shane Hnidy pastes Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matt Stajan into the boards Tuesday night at the ACC. (Toronto Sun/Ernest Doroszuk)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

The Maple Leafs continue to fill the stands with ill-timed souvenir pucks, at the expense of their depleted win column.

Confidence reached a low ebb last night after a second consecutive two-goal third-period lead dissolved in a bizarre 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.

It was their fifth defeat in a row and despite a great start to blanket the potent Thrashers, the Leafs were short-handed a season-high 10 times and recorded just 19 shots, tying a season low. Regent Park's Glen Metropolit had a three-point game, with Toronto holding Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk off the board until late in the game.

But the Leafs heard their share of boos from 19,507 at the Air Canada Centre.

"I don't know if Atlanta had more energy than us or a bit more determination, but bottom line, it was a disgrace on our side," centre Michael Peca said.

"It's like we get that lead, sit back and wait for something bad to happen."

In the past two games, against Montreal and Atlanta, that calamity has begun in the form of a third-period delay of game call on rookie defenceman Ian White, part of his three penalties for clearing the glass.

"Things obviously aren't going well for us right now and small things such as that are contributing," White said.

"On the first one, the puck was rolling and you don't want to make a soft play, you want a hard one. The second one, I tried to out-muscle Hossa for the puck and get it out.

"But it can't happen and it's not going to happen again. I'm just going to be rimming a lot of pucks instead of going high and hard off the glass."

Teammates were quick to come to White's aid, some blaming the bumpy ice at the ACC for getting too much air under the puck as it's launched.

But then there was the matter of three goals on three shots in the third period, five on eight shots counting an empty-netter.

"We have to sit down and figure this out," said defenceman Hal Gill, one of the few players to show in the Leafs dressing room after the game.

"Confidence is a Catch-22. You need it to win and you get it by winning. Sometimes you're losing and you're working as hard as you ever have. It doesn't make much sense."

The fallout at practice today before a two-game road swing should be interesting, though coach Paul Maurice praised the first 30 flawless saves Andrew Raycroft made. He said the game likely was lost not in the third, but in the second which Toronto spent killing five minors and disrupting line chemistry.

NOTHING LEFT

"You've got guys going out there cold and (penalty killers) who have nothing left," Maurice said.

"They send everybody home after two periods if (Raycroft) doesn't play well, We'd like a 45-save miraculous performance, certainly, but that power play is just too good."

Toronto's power play struck first, on Darcy Tucker's new signature one-timer, his 12th with the extra man. It was followed by Peca's bullet shot past surprise starter Johan Hedberg.

But Metropolit scored at 3:56 of the third and set up two by Slava Kozlov, before Hossa and Kovalchuk secured Southeast Division-leading Atlanta's second win in less than a week against the Leafs.

REPORT CARD

C- Forwards: Held to 17 shots, but Michael Peca had a huge two-way game.

C- Defence: Lost marks for taking so many penalties, but were excellent on penalty killing.

C Goaltending: Andrew Raycroft stared down the two hottest Thrashers in Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk for 30 shots, not surrendering a goal until a third-period flood.


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