Leafs still have a ways to go

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

Paul Maurice already will have butterflies in his stomach when he returns to the RBC Center in Carolina tomorrow, so he didn't need an albatross around his neck.

The Maple Leafs took care of that Tuesday night with a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, breaking a seven-game losing streak and letting their coach enjoy his homecoming just a bit more.

"I'm looking forward to talking about something else (at practice today)," Maurice said with a laugh.

But he and his charges know one game doesn't get them off the hook for almost three weeks of poor attention to detail. Even in the closing minutes of the Tampa game, a soft goal eluded Andrew Raycroft, someone through a puck right up the middle of the slot and a final Tampa rush was barely thwarted.

And there's no telling how far off course the Leafs would have drifted in the second period on Tuesday if Maurice had not called a timeout after the Lightning went up 3-1 and gave the club a tongue-lashing in the manner of maniacal John Brophy.

Centre Michael Peca was encouraged to see that his own pep talks seemed to be making a difference. One of the most vocal Leafs as the losing streak lengthened and the public spotlight heated up, he saw a lot to like in the game's second half.

"It's always a process," he said. "No matter what you say or do, different people react differently at different times. Some guys show signs at certain times. They might show signs today and a week from ow it might sink in when they see the older guys do it |or understand what the coach was talking about.

"We all talk the talk, but when you lose it becomes frustrating because you start pulling your hair out saying there's nothing else to do or say."

The Leafs responded with four goals, driving the net like bulldozers.

"It has been a point of emphasis with us the past week to do the little things, moving pucks and chipping pucks and giving us a chance to get pucks with speed through the neutral zone," Peca said. "That allows us to get pucks on net and that allows our guy driving the net to get a rebound."


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