Season's beatings

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

Welcome home, Maple 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 last night thoroughly were embarrassed by the New York Rangers in a 6-1 loss.

"What do you say about that?" Leafs captain Mats Sundin said 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. We have a lot of hockey to be played and we have a great chance to be a playoff team."

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.

TOUGH NIGHT

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 at the ACC 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 still 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."

The Rangers have had a hard time putting the puck in the net, but the Leafs didn't care. It was the first time New York scored six goals in one game in 2007-08. Petr Prucha had two, with Blair Betts, Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka also scoring.

Steve Valiquette, who was born in Etobicoke and raised in Bolton, looked primed for his first NHL shutout until Darcy Tucker beat him with a wrist shot at 8:20 of the third period. It was the fourth goal of the season for Tucker and first since Nov. 27.

Penalties put the Leafs into a spiral, and that was not more evident than the spurt that started at 6:15 of the second when Chad Kilger was sent off for high sticking with New York up 3-0. Alex Steen followed 18 seconds later for hooking, giving the Rangers a long two-man advantage. Shanahan whisted a slapshot past Raycroft, but the Leafs were not done with their gift-giving.

Six seconds after Shanahan scored, Pavel Kubina shot the puck over the glass and was penalized. Not to be outdone, Sundin put the Rangers two men up again when he blatantly cross-checked Chris Drury in front of referee Bill McCreary. Sundin still was in the penalty box when Straka scored to chase Raycroft.

Rangers pest Sean Avery was booed when he touched the puck, but he played a smart game. He made a nice pass on one of Prucha's goals in the Rangers' first game in Toronto since Avery, Tucker and Jason Blake participated in some pre-game shoving in November.

"Sean was good to his word and I had no worries about him," Rangers coach Tom Renney said.

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REPLAY

TURNING POINT

The Leafs began the second period down only two and on a power play, with Mats Sundin losing the centre ice draw, Pavel Kubina giving it away in his own zone and the Leafs missing two crease chances with the goalie down.

STAT OF THE GAME

The Leafs gave up five power-play goals after allowing one or less in the previous nine games.

GAME STAR

Jaromir Jagr had a goal and three assists, with the helpers moving him past Larry Murphy's 929 for 14th in NHL history .

OOPS

Tomas Kaberle began the game in the penalty box for high-sticking Sean Avery of all people. Kaberle was hosting a group of First Nations children from a remote part of Northern Ontario.

FIGHTIN' WORDS

Immediately after the Rangers second goal, Wade Belak challenged Colton Orr to a fight. After landing the best early blows, Belak took a couple at the end as well as two for instigating and a ten-minute misconduct.


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