Leafs' southern discomfort

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Maple Leafs suffered a good ol' southern brain cramp last night, resulting in a 6-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes here at the RBC Center.

After erasing a 2-0 deficit to defeat the New York Rangers at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday, the Leafs blew their own two-goal lead last night, the result of a series of dopey penalties in a second period which produced four Carolina goals -- two coming on the power play.

Joe Corvo scored with the extra man early in the second to tie the game at 1-1, before Leafs' rookie centre Mikhail Grabovski potted back-to-back goals to give Toronto a 3-1 lead.

The normally disciplined Leafs seemed to be cruising to another win, but the parade to the penalty box continued and the 'Canes took advantage, starting with a power-play marker by Ray Whitney and followed by goals by Dwight Helminen and Tuomo Ruutu.

Chad Larose put the home side ahead by two early in the third, but winger Niklas Hagman scored with just more than 11 minutes left in the game to bring Toronto to within one. But that was as close as the Leafs would get.

"We took some bad penalties and it caught up to us," Toronto head coach Ron Wilson said. "We were within three to four minutes of coming out of the second period with a two-goal lead. A couple of bad penalties and that pretty much did us in."

Two of the goals that beat Curtis Joseph, who started in place of No. 1 netminder Vesa Toskala, were the result of Carolina forwards finding the puck right in front of the net while the Toronto defenders appeared lost.

Corvo's marker to tie it 1-1 was especially frustrating for Joseph. The blue-liner hammered a shot from the point, Joseph made a good save with his right pad, but the rebound bounced off Toronto defenceman Jeff Finger and into the net.

All in all, a frustrating turn of events for the 41-year-old Joseph, who did make mistakes on a couple of Carolina goals, including Ruutu's at the end of the second period, when he went down prematurely as the Finn cruised around from behind the net and snapped it over the Toronto goaltender's shoulder.

"Just a couple of tough bounces," said Joseph, now winless in his two starts this season.

"It's a game of inches sometimes and unfortunately it didn't go our way tonight."

Joseph, in his second go-around with the Leafs, admitted that it has been a little difficult finding a rhythm while sitting on the bench for several games in a stretch.

"But I know what I signed up for. It's all attitude and I'm happy with my position and my role," he said. "At my age, I love playing with the young guys, and if that is what I have to do, that is what I have to do."

A couple of Leafs, however, couldn't hide their smiles after the game. Defenceman Ian White, who had been a healthy scratch in the first 11 games of the season, finally got a chance to play, albeit at forward, and scored on his second shift to put Toronto ahead 1-0. The talented Grabovski now has points in three of his past five games after starting the year with nothing to show for his first seven.

"Of course I was nervous," Grabovski said of his slow start. "I was especially nervous because I was a minus player. But the coach's trust was very important to me. I feel much better now, much more confident."


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