'Awful' Leafs take it on chin

Second period action. (Toronto Sun/Greg Henkenhaf) 
Saturday, December 29, 2007 9:11:58 PM

Second period action. (Toronto Sun/Greg Henkenhaf) Saturday, December 29, 2007 9:11:58 PM

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

TORONTO -- Welcome home, Leafs. Did you have to come back?

In their first appearance at the Air Canada Centre -- and it was not much more than an appearance -- since completing a seven-game road stint, the Leafs were thoroughly embarrassed by the New York Rangers in a 6-1 rout.

"What do you say about that?" Leafs captain Mats Sundin asked in a dressing room that was full of players but deathly quiet. "We had an awful game as a group, there is no pointing fingers anywhere else."

Sundin might get some argument there. The Leafs took 10 minors to the Rangers' two and allowed a season-high five power-play goals, but generally were lazy and disorganized when they were at even strength.

RAYCROFT YANKED

Andrew Raycroft, in net only because Vesa Toskala has a bad groin, was pulled after giving up five goals on 29 shots. The bright side for the 19,408 people in attendance is they can tell their friends they were in the house for goalie Scott Clemmensen's debut as a Leaf. Other than that, no one will want to acknowledge they witnessed the Leafs' final debacle of 2007 in person.

The Leafs have 43 games remaining and their season is unfolding as many predicted. There is little depth, the defensive game is suspect and they probably won't know their playoff fate until the last days of the regular season. However, a few more efforts like last night and the suspense will be long gone by the first week of April.

Coach Paul Maurice, calm yet clearly exasperated, was queried as to what he said to the Leafs after the game.

"Some things you should keep to yourself," Maurice said. "That's a tough game to sit through when you are beaten that bad that early. Our penalty killers were dragging their butts (because they were on the ice so often).

"It doesn't matter (about the skewed number of minor penalties). We're not blaming anybody else for this."

It was the first time New York scored six goals in one game this season. Petr Prucha had two, with Blair Betts, Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka also scoring.

Steve Valiquette, looked primed for his first NHL shutout until Darcy Tucker beat him with a wrist shot at 8:20 of the third period.


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