Maple Leafs firing blanks

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

An alarm went off at the Air Canada Centre last night shortly after the Maple Leafs' 2-0 loss to an average Nashville Predators squad.

Surprisingly, it wasn't head coach Ron Wilson's blood pressure monitor.

The loss can be blamed largely on the fact that the Leafs managed only 17 shots on Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne despite four power-play opportunities. It was Toronto's fourth loss in a row, its longest losing streak of the season, and eighth in their past 10 games.

"You have to give Nashville some credit. They're a very quick, defensive team and they kept us on the outside and we didn't do enough to penetrate their defence," head coach Ron Wilson said. "But we just have to stick with it and battle through this rough time."

In their past six games, the Leafs have scored all of nine goals.

For once, no one could blame starting goaltender Vesa Toskala for the loss. Toskala stood tall between the pipes for Toronto, making some big saves through the first two periods to keep his team in the game.

Nashville managed only 23 shots on net, but the majority were solid scoring chances.

At the other end, Nashville's Rinne also played well -- obviously, he picked up the shutout -- but he didn't have an awful lot to do as Toronto managed a season low for shots on goal.

The Leafs now are 16-21-6 and a lottery pick at this year's draft is beginning to look realistic.

Radek Bonk broke the deadlock at 5:33 of the third when he deflected a shot by former Maple Leaf Steve Sullivan, playing only his second game since Feb. 22, 2007, the result of two back operations. With Dominic Moore in the penalty box for interference, Sullivan picked up the puck at the blue-line, swept around a bewildered Matt Stajan with a fake drop pass, and then fired a high shot at Toskala.

David Legwand scored at 13:03 of the third with a wicked wrist shot off the post and into the net for the insurance marker.

STREAK SNAPPED

The win snapped an eight-game road losing streak for the Predators.

Wilson admitted that injuries are beginning to take a toll on the Leafs, a team that has very little depth, particularly on the back end. Toronto was without regular blue- liners Jeff Finger (upper body injury) and Mike Van Ryn (concussion) last night.

"We end up having to play a couple of guys like (Pavel) Kubina and (Tomas) Kaberle and Luke Schenn way too much," Wilson said. "Our hope is before the all-star break we get Van Ryn back in because he moves the puck so well and that has a huge impact on your offence. If you're not moving the puck very well, you're not going to be a very good offensive team."

Kubina said the Leafs have to get back to basics and start throwing the puck at the net and crashing it for rebounds and deflections.

"If you play at home, you have to find a way," he said. "You have to shoot from everywhere, look for rebounds and maybe they're going to take some penalties, and then maybe you score on the power play, and your confidence comes back.

"One goal in the last two games is not good enough," Kubina said.

Wilson might look at shaking up his top line of Stajan, Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky. He doesn't have many other options. On most nights, his team plays hard, but there is very little scoring talent.

Despite getting the vast majority of power-play time, the trio of Stajan, Antropov and Ponikarovsky aren't clicking.

Antropov leads the team with 13 goals, but hasn't scored in the past 11 games.

Antropov isn't the only Toronto player in a scoring slump. Niklas Hagman, who had 27 in Dallas last season but just 11 past the half-way point this season, hasn't scored in seven games, Lee Stempniak hasn't scored in six, Moore in four.

Mikhail Grabovski, before his three-game suspension for pushing a linesman last Thursday in Montreal, hadn't scored in seven. Those guys are supposed to be goal-scorers.


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