Power failure, again

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

The Maple Leafs' power play has been the one component of their game that didn't kept pace with a four-game winning streak.

Last night, it weighed like a stone around their necks in a neutral zone already crowded by the suffocating Boston Bruins. A long evening that began with just seven first-period shots by the Leafs, ended with an 0-for-6 power play and a 6-on-4 chance that skipped away from Mats Sundin at the buzzer for a 2-1 Bruins win.

"A dog of a game," coach Paul Maurice concluded. "We didn't move the puck very well from where I was watching."

THIRD BOSTON VICTORY

Boston beat the Leafs a third time this season, halting a surge in which the Leafs had gained nine of a possible 10 points. During that time, the Leafs cancelled the death watch on general manager John Ferguson and/or Maurice, but a fifth victory, matching last year's best run from Jan. 27 to Feb. 6, was not to be.

"We kept making another pass, another pass," an exasperated Alexei Ponikarovsky said of the perimeter power play. "Then we'd get a bad break. They gave us the outside, but we needed a wrist shot with guys going to the net."

Neither Leafs unit looked like a threat and of their 26 shots, only a handful came on the power play. Maurice had just praised them the day before for a no-nonsense, drive-the-net approach in New York that netted two goals. But they weren't vital in a 6-2 win, where one last night would've likely changed the game's direction.

BASEMENT DWELLERS

The two against the Rangers didn't get the Leafs out of last in the Eastern Conference in power-play proficiency and last night's 0-fer now puts them at 18-for-138 this year. The Bruins, at 29th in penalty killing, were not exactly defensive minded.

Maurice listed the usual problems: Other teams keying on Bryan McCabe's shot and closing down Darcy Tucker's one-timer at the side, while the Leafs still don't shoot enough or crowd the net. Maurice could introduce newer personnel such as the Matt Stajan-Alex Steen-Boyd Devereaux line, but worries about over-extending them after 5-on-5 and penalty killing duties.

"I'd like to put (big forwards) Nikky and Pony in front and have three guys shoot the puck," Maurice said. "Or roll it, or kick it or do something to get it towards the net."

Two Boston minors elapsed without even a shot, but the visitors were equally stingy 5-on-5 after newcomer goalie Alex Auld misplayed a Jason Blake wrist shot in the first period.

"We clogged up the neutral zone, didn't give them many chances and got them in their end," Bruins defenceman Dennis Wideman said. "It's how we have to play."

Tucker had his close-in chance blocked by defenceman Aaron Ward, a McCabe blast came off Auld at a weird angle but stayed out and Sundin hammered a power-play chance off Antropov's left arm, giving the hottest Leafs scorer a bruise, but no chance for a deflection. Auld also stopped Antropov in the third with a stretching pad save before holding the fort on the 6-on-4.

Toronto's attempt to take a 2-0 lead for the fifth straight game was thwarted near the end of a Pavel Kubina penalty in the first period. A yawning gap opened between Andy Wozniewski and Hal Gill, with Chuck Kobasew getting his third goal and fourth point against Toronto this year. Wozniewski continues to see the fewest minutes of the six Toronto defencemen.

Gill was pressured off of the puck in the second period and the Bruins pounced. With the Leafs trapped low, Wideman put a shot through traffic past Vesa Toskala.

---

REPLAY

TURNING POINT

Boston's second goal came at the end of a hard forecheck that had the Leafs looking over their shoulders the rest of the night.

STAT OF THE GAME

The Leafs had 15 shots at the end of two periods, half their total of the previous two games.

GAME STAR

Glen Metropolit, who grew up in nearby Regent Park, had another strong game in front of friends and family, getting an assist and leading the Boston pursuit of the Leafs in their zone.

OOPS

Mats Sundin high-sticked Zdeno Chara during a battle in front of the Boston net, not the wisest move considering how the Bruins behemoth has manhandled Leafs who get in his way.

THREE BEARS

Alex Auld, acquired earlier in the week, became the third different goaltender to beat the Leafs this year, with the injured Tim Thomas and last night's backup Tuukka Rask doing it last month. Manny Fernandez could make it four before this eight-game series ends.


Photos