Blowing up in Leafs' faces

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

BOSTON -- Jean-Sebastien Aubin termed last night's fatal third-period bounce "a grenade," an apt description for a team that keeps blowing leads and its own sanity.

For the third consecutive time in a six-game losing streak, the Maple Leafs fumbled a third-period lead, continuing to lose precious points to division opponents. With the 3-1 defeat to the Bruins, they have dropped nine of their past 11 and been out-scored 17-1 in the past five third periods.

Just as ominous, they were knocked out of eighth place on the playoff board, a fall they were unable to break when it happened in Game 57 last season.

Coach Paul Maurice needed a few extra minutes to compose himself after this latest meltdown. But when he came out of his TD Banknorth Garden office and faced the press, he chastised everyone in the dressing room, save for his three captains and Darcy Tucker.

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"I'm looking for a little more ownership in our situation, instead of the four guys who always give it," Maurice said. "Those guys wear it, you can see it in their play and hear it on the bench. If Darcy is not bleeding, he is not in the game. But we need less leadership at the top end, more ownership (elsewhere).

"Every guy in that room has to finish checks, compete harder, control rebounds, do all the things we aren't doing now."

Toronto nursed Jeff O'Neill's goal into the third period, then backed away as defenceman Brad Stuart tied at 10:13. Less than four minutes later came a repeat of collapses in Montreal and Atlanta. This one was triggered by a puck that struck a linesman and went to Mark Mowers, whose shot rocketed off Aubin's pad to an open Wayne Primeau for the game-winner. Patrice Bergeron finished it off with 1:19 to play.

"What word is worse than frustrating?" Leafs defenceman Hal Gill said

"Numbing?" offered a reporter.

"That's a good word," Gill said. "They went to the net and shot and that's when good things happen. Aubs played well (21 saves before the roof fell in) and it's a shame we couldn't give him more."

Michael Peca, whom Maurice also counts as one of his dressing-room lieutenants, was one who kept plugging until the buzzer.

"It's becoming a common theme in the third: Unable to get a goal or prevent them from scoring, plus freak plays," Peca said. "Eventually, we'll get out of this. Next game (in Detroit tomorrow), we get a lead in the third, which I have no doubt, and we'll just buckle down."

Chad Kilger couldn't understand how the Leafs, playing through so many injuries late last year and early this season and were, until recently, challenging the Buffalo Sabres for first in the conference.

"This year, we're relatively healthy," Kilger said. "We're doing the right things, but not for 60 minutes and we get tight. They get that one bounce and we can't stop them rolling on us. We have a team we feel can compete for playoffs, but we have to find a way to close out games.

"Some buildings such as Montreal, they (the Habs) get a goal and start rolling. But there weren't a lot of people here tonight, so we should've been able to sustain it."


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