The Maple Leafs season was pretty much summed up in 24 hours yesterday.
"I hope not," head coach Paul Maurice said when asked if this was a microcosm of season gone wrong. But hope left the building with John Ferguson Jr. in a season when every minor victory comes with an accompanying irritation.
Carlo Colaiacovo was grinning like a kid in front of the ice cream store window yesterday. A couple lockers away, Boyd Devereaux looked like the kid who had just ordered the triple scoop -- and watched it hit the road and go splat! That was at the morning skate when Colaiacovo announced he'd be back in the lineup -- and when Devereaux had to admit he'd hurt his wrist so badly that he can't play. So, they're .500 on the medical front. These days, that's a moral victory.
It was more than they got last night.
The Leafs did some nice things. With both the New York Rangers and New York Islanders losing, they could've made up desperately needed ground. They got two goals from a secondary line with Darcy Tucker, Jason Blake and Matt Stajan. That's a plus. They outshot the Blues.
"We hit a post and had another puck on the goal line. We deserved better," said Colaiacovo, playing his first game since Jan. 5 and only his sixth of the season.
Maybe. But the only breaks they got yesterday were on Devereaux's MRI. They came up an inch short and seconds late.
Welcome to another day in Leafland, where every silver lining comes with a cloud. This game turned into a tale of two goals: The first by the Blues that Tucker and Vesa Toskala swear shouldn't have counted, and the second that Mats Sundin swears should've counted, but didn't.
Midway through the second, Toskala stopped a shot and "I thought I had it. I lost it for a bit but it was under my arm," Toskala said.
But the referee's whistle didn't sound. The puck dropped to the ice.
"The shot came from the side boards and Vesa caught it," Tucker said. "I was waiting for the whistle. It didn't go for what seemed about six seconds. I was disillusioned."
David Backes finally knocked it under Toskala for what proved to be the winning goal.
More aggravation came with 29 seconds to play when Sundin poked the puck past Manny Legace in a goal-mouth scramble.
"The puck was laying there. I could see it. Mats poked it in," Tucker said. "You want to get the same call (the Blues got)."
Sundin went ballistic when officials waved it off.
Another day. Another dose of frustration.
Devereaux said he has a slight tear in the muscle in his left wrist.
That came courtesy of Washington's Donald Brashear last week. With Alex Steen, Alexei Ponikarovsky already out, it left Maurice moving bodies like a sideshow juggler.
"It's terrible timing but if I can't pass or shoot there's no point (trying to play)," Devereaux said.
Colaiacovo's comeback from his latest injury was a minor triumph.
He was on the ice for both Toronto goals. He laid a hit on Dwayne King near the end of the second period that rattled the boards and finished with 14:48 of ice time.
"I'm really excited," said Colaiacovo, who also missed the first 37 games with a knee injury. "All I know is that it's not a lot of fun watching.''
Blake and Stajan got the Leafs goals, with Tucker getting assists on both.
"We've talked all year about getting some secondary scoring," said Tucker, "and with the injuries guys have to ramp it up."
When the scoring arrived last night, it wasn't enough.
"We had some good shifts but it comes down to the same old thing,'' Tucker said. "You've got to get the puck in the net."
Last night, even that wasn't good enough.