Leafs get run over

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft makes an awkward save against the Ottawa Senators during...

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft makes an awkward save against the Ottawa Senators during the third period at Scotiabank Place on Thursday. (Sun Media/Blair Gable)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Earlier this week, the federal government awarded Toronto millions of dollars for public transit.

So the Maple Leafs thought a reciprocal gift was in order: Two no-hassle points as the 7:30 p.m. express from Kanata rolled over them last night with barely a whimper.

In a game that was decided as much by the Senators' jump as an 0-for-8 night for the Leafs' power play, Toronto lost the opener of a home-and-home series 5-1 and was dislodged from eighth place by the New York Rangers on total victories. The Montreal Canadiens lost and remain one point behind the Rangers, Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes, who play Washington tonight.

"If you're going to get beat, get beat big and hope it doesn't happen too often," said shellshocked Leafs, coach Paul Maurice, whose team gave up two goals on 23 first-period shots. "We've scratched and clawed and taken some pretty good lickings over the course of this year. You can say it's unacceptable, but we'll come back and fight the next game."

That would be tomorrow's rematch at the Air Canada Centre, where Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson fully expects the Leafs "will forecheck a lot harder" after Ottawa broke through for 40 shots, three power-play goals and one short-handed tally.

"It wasn't a matter of them wanting it more. They were better than we were, start to finish," Maurice said. "We didn't connect on our passes and they forced us into a lot of that."

Raycroft, who faced just 24 shots in blanking the Washington Capitals 3-0 on Tuesday, admitted he was fatigued by the time the first period ended and Mike Fisher had scored two power-play goals.

"The first 10 or 15 shots are okay. It's the last seven that kill you," Raycroft said with a wince. "Give them credit. They came out flying. We weren't able to relieve the pressure and they got on a roll."

Though the Leafs have won at Scotiabank Place twice this season, the loss gave Ottawa a convincing lead in the series since Toronto's move back to the East in 1998-99. The Sens now own a 24-13-4 record, but the Leafs are 16-8 in playoffs.

Ray Emery added to the Leafs' grief with some big saves from the 29 shots he faced, including one on Bates Battaglia on a stretch across the crease with his glove. But Matt Stajan and Yanic Perreault had empty-net chances go awry among other Leafs chances.

With Toronto's struggling power-play back-tracking in the face of tough Ottawa forechecking, two Leafs wound up flat on the ice in front of Raycroft when Dean McAmmond made it 3-0.

The Leafs power play is now 2-for-42 the past nine games, in which its playoff momentum has been dulled by a mediocre 3-5-1 record.

With Tomas Kaberle out of the picture for a few more days at least, the situation isn't likely to improve.

STEEN SCORES

Alex Steen finally solved Emery at 10:57 of the second, which made the home faithful nervous in the face of three blown third-period leads in as many games. But Steen's goal was answered by Tom Preissing and McAmmond before the night ended.

"We were second to every puck through the first period. Then they drew some penalties and scored on the power play," Sundin said of a familiar script to Leafs-Senators games. "Not one of our best efforts for sure, so we have to come back hard on Saturday."


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