Buffalo rains on Leafs' parade

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

BUFFALO -- What appeared to be a picnic by the Peace Bridge for the Maple Leafs last night was ruined by a shower of Sabres goals that could end up washing away playoff hopes.

A quick recovery will be difficult tonight at the Air Canada Centre in the second of back-to-back games after the Leafs gave up four unanswered goals in eight minutes 45 seconds last night in a 5-4 loss.

"We let ourselves down," defenceman Ian White said. "Those were two big points."

It's hard to imagine Toronto playing any better against the National Hockey League leaders in the early stages at HSBC Arena, but it still sits 11th in the Eastern Conference this morning, two points out of a crowded eighth-place hunt.

"Of course the clock is ticking," captain Mats Sundin said. "All losses hurt, but this is one we can use to drum up energy and emotion for (tonight).

"We're not in a position to feel sorry for ourselves or not think we're good enough. We played against one of the top teams in the league and I thought we were the better team for most of the night. If we come back with the same effort tomorrow, we have a chance to win."

Of all the things the Leafs, who have eight games left, worried about before last night, getting too big a lead on goalie Ryan Miller and the 101-point Sabres had to rank at the bottom of the list. Yet most of the Leafs had an unsettling feeling after Boyd Devereaux made it 4-1 at 3:52 of the third.

"I turned to (assistant coach) Keith Acton and said "We're going in the box," coach Paul Maurice said. Soon after, Pavel Kubina was whistled for tripping. Thomas Vanek scored with Kubina in the box. Daniel Briere added another just two seconds after White exited the box, a penalty that came not long after Kubina's.

"To be honest, I liked it more at 2-1 or 3-1 than 4-1," Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft said. "You knew they were going to be gunning for us."

Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford struck 20 seconds apart, while Sundin was stopped by a Miller pad save near the buzzer.

The line of Matt Stajan, Devereaux and Alex Steen was a huge bonus for the Leafs, the badly needed secondary scoring after Sundin's line carried the team recently. Darryl Sittler continues to trail Sundin home and road in anticipation the Swede will get the goal to tie him at 389 and first in franchise history.

Stajan had a goal, his first since Feb. 20, and an assist.

"You blow a 4-1 lead to these guys, it's not fun, but we can play with them," Stajan said. "My line played well and everyone was going well for the first 45 minutes."


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