Penalties lead to Leafs SO loss

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Maple Leafs centre Matt Stajan, following yesterday's morning skate, joined the rather sad tradition of pro athletes in Toronto begging the local fans to make some noise.

Today, Stajan and his teammates should be begging the fans for forgiveness.

It's one thing being unable to score, particularly when you're a team devoid of offensive firepower, which the Leafs clearly are. But the Leafs blew last night's game against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins as a result of lazy, undisciplined penalties -- in fact, back-to-back-to-back holding penalties in the third period, which resulted in two power-play goals by the Bruins and a 3-3 tie to force overtime.

And then, in the shootout, Michael Ryder, Boston's fourth shooter, beat Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala to the glove side for the 4-3 win.

Toskala, actually, failed to make a save in the shootout, giving up goals to Blake Wheeler, Martin St. Pierre and Ryder, with David Krejci missing the net on a deke. Lee Stempniak and Jason Blake scored shootout markers for Toronto while Niklas Hagman and Nikolai Kulemin missed.

"That's all they needed to knock us off the rails," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said of his club's third-period penalties. "You can't defend those penalties. They should know better."

The Leafs had a chance to win it in overtime when St. Pierre tripped Blake with 1:40 left but, despite buzzing around the Boston net, couldn't capitalize.

Still, it was an entertaining game and the 19,258 fans at the Air Canada Centre were more alive than usual.

"I thought we were competitive and we played with enthusiasm. But we need some of our veteran players to perform better, not to be minus magnets, which they've been for the last month," Wilson said of his team's January swoon.

One of those veterans, Nik Antropov, now has gone 15 games without a goal and Wilson suggested that perhaps the veteran winger is worried about the prospect of being traded as general manager Brian Burke has promised to make changes to the rebuilding franchise.

"He's probably got a lot of things on his mind," Wilson said of Antropov. "I think that's affected some of our guys. He doesn't have a contract next year."

Wilson will head to South Carolina during this weekend's all-star break, before rejoining the team for a practice in Toronto on Monday. The Leafs' next game isn't until Tuesday in Minnesota, so he will advise his players to not even think about hockey over the next few days.

"You guys (the media) get days off. We rarely do," he said. "It can be a mental drain and, when you're losing, it's not fun and that can drain you even more.

"To sit around and think about hockey for the next three or four days, that's detrimental to your health."

Ian White agreed.

"It will be good to get away and rejuvenate the mind and the body," the defenceman said. "It'll be a couple of days off to recharge the batteries."


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