Struggling Buds fall apart

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

With the Maple Leafs trailing by two goals late in the second period last night, an ear-piercing fire alarm started wailing inside the Air Canada Centre.

No one would have blamed coach Paul Maurice had he triggered it, given the dire straits he finds his team in these days.

When his Leafs weren't sheepishly skating to the penalty box, they were hobbling to the trainers' room during a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Finding themselves in a two-game losing skid, the injury-riddled Leafs likely will be without another regular after defenceman Ian White slammed into the end boards late in the second period while pursuing a potential icing call with the Hurricanes' Chad Larose, crumpling his left arm in the process.

Saying it "looks like only a minor separation" of the left shoulder, White, who was sporting a blue sling after the game, will have an MRI today.

Whatever the tests show, it is likely that Brendan Bell will replace White on the Leafs blue line tomorrow night in Buffalo against the Sabres.

"I'm ready," Bell said. "(Management) told me to stay in shape and be ready to go if needed.

"You never like to see a guy go down like (White) did, but hopefully it's not as bad as it looked."

If the White injury wasn't frustrating enough for Maurice, his team took six of the eight penalties called in the game, a recipe for disaster against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"We were standing around watching the play, and we took far too many penalties," frustrated captain Mats Sundin said. "I really thought that was the difference in the game.

"When you don't move your legs enough you start to take some penalties."

The loss, coupled with victories by the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning last night, dropped the Leafs from eighth to 10th place in the Eastern Conference heading into a stretch that will see them play nine of their next 11 outings on the road.

Maybe being away from the Air Canada Centre is a good thing, considering the defeat last night dropped Toronto's record below .500 on home ice at 10-11-3.

"When you are playing around .500 hockey at the halfway point of the season, you are just not playing good enough to be a good team in this league," Sundin said. "We have a lot of things to work on."

In their only previous meeting against the defending champions, Maurice's Maple Leafs got a late winner off the stick of Alex Steen to post a 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes at the RBC Centre.

The victory, which came on Dec. 15, marked the first time Maurice had faced the Hurricanes since he was fired by Carolina exactly three years earlier.

He was not as fortunate last night.

After Bryan McCabe's first-period goal put the Leafs up 1-0, the Hurricanes scored twice in 60 seconds early in the second on tallies by Scott Walker and Eric Belanger.

Eric Staal widened the Carolina lead to 3-1 less than two minutes before the second intermission. Justin Williams then finished off the scoring with an empty-net goal in the game's final minute.

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REPORT CARD

C- Forwards: Recorded 10 of the game's first 11 shots, then seemed to struggle to squeeze out any offence.

C+ Defence: Had problems containing the speedy Carolina forwards, especially in the second period when the Hurricanes scored three times.

C Goaltending: An average mark for an average performance. Raycroft was not the scapegoat but he didn't steal the Leafs a point, either.


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