New Leaf faces not enough

Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala watches as the puck goes in the net during first period action in Ottawa...

Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala watches as the puck goes in the net during first period action in Ottawa on Tuesday. (SUN MEDIA/Darren Calabrese)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

OTTAWA -- After helplessly watching his team from afar during his 15-game suspension, Mark Bell was not going to take any of Chris Neil's shenanigans.

With his embarrassed Maple Leafs down 5-1 to the deservedly cocky Ottawa Senators in the game's final moments at Scotiabank Place last night, Bell watched Neil deliver a solid hack to the glove of rookie Jiri Tlusty, who began shaking his hand in pain.

So Bell did what any good teammate would do.

He came to Tlusty's aid, charging into the scrum to get a piece of Neil.

"He had a couple of pretty chippy shifts," Bell said afterward of Neil. "He hit Jiri with his stick, then an elbow. I'm not going to stand for that."

At least Bell, who collected 14 minutes in penalties on the play, fought back.

The same can't be said for many of the other Maple Leafs, who spent much of the evening seemingly mezmorized by the speedy Sens.

How is it that one of the few Leafs to push back last night in this, yet another spanking at the hands of the provincial rival Sens, was Bell, a guy who was making his Leafs debut and hadn't played a meaningful game in more than half a year?

Where was the same competitiveness in some of the Leafs other big-name talent, which spent much of the evening watching the likes of burners Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Chris Kelly do triple salchows around them?

The Sens are 15-2-2 against the Leafs since the lockout, many of those wins of the lopsided variety.

Battle of Ontario? It's more like a slaughter.

Yet, other than that exhibited by Bell, where's the anger at being humiliated by the Sens yet again?

That's the dilemma for coach Paul Maurice.

So many questions. So few answers.

Here was a Leafs team going up against the 12-1 Sens, arguably the league's best squad and one that is pumped every time the hated Leafs come to town.

Fully aware of that, Maurice and his coaching staff preached patience against the speedy Sens, calling for a tight defensive game.

Less than four minutes in, the Leafs had ignored their coach, digressed into a suicidal run-and-gun shootout right out of the gates and found themselves trailing 2-0 on goals by Chris Phillips and Patrick Eaves.

By the time poor starter Vesa Toskala was pulled after the Sens' fourth goal at 8:08 of the second, he had seen a month's worth of odd-man rushes.

"We weren't ready from the moment the puck dropped," Toskala said.

A disgusted Maurice said afterward he might have to start sitting out players. He didn't mention names but there are plenty to choose from.

"It's disappointing," a steamed Maurice said. "There were so many odd-man rushes.

"We've had an offensive mindset here and it's clear we are going to have to put the clamps on some of the guys on the back end."

Kyle Wellwood joined Bell in making his first appearance of the season but could not ignite a sputtering power play that went just 1-for-9 and allowed a short-handed goal to Alfredsson in the second period.

"Physically, I felt good," said Wellwood, who is coming off groin surgery. "I just felt a bit slow."

The Leafs could have reinforcements by the weekend. Defenceman Bryan McCabe (groin) and forward Darcy Tucker (knee) both skated hard in the morning and might be back for Friday's contest in Buffalo or, more likely, Saturday's Hall of Fame game versus the New York Rangers at the Air Canada Centre.

Those two players have a reputation for coming to the defence of their teammates, like Bell did.

But if the remainder of the squad does not exhibit more stones -- or smarts -- there will be far too many repeats of last night looming ahead of this team.

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REPLAY

TURNING POINT

Just 2:59 into the game, Jason Blake allowed Chris Phillips to sneak in from the point and convert a perfect Dany Heatley feed to open the scoring. The Sens would never trail for the rest of the evening.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Sens set a team record with their eighth consecutive victory and, according to the Elias sports bureau, have the most points ever (26) by any team through the first 14 games of the season.

OOPS

During an early second-period power play, Alex Steen made a perfect tape-to-tape pass. Too bad it was directly on to the stick of an Ottawa player. Daniel Alfredsson would go on to score a short-handed goal.

QUOTABLE

"He's a true warrior but there is only so much you can do with your body. He wants to play. It's in his blood. Let's hope he can."

-- Mats Sundin, commenting on the potential retirement of fellow Swede Peter Forsberg.


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