Terrible Tuesdays at ACC

Toronto Maple Leafs' Niklas Hagman can't score on Minnesota Wild's Niklas Backstrom. (Alex...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Niklas Hagman can't score on Minnesota Wild's Niklas Backstrom. (Alex Urosevic/SUN MEDIA)

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

As the 19,053 at the Air Canada Centre last night can attest, tickets for a Leafs game there on a Tuesday should come with a warning.

This might be a night to give away the tickets to the neighbour's kid.

The Tuesday syndrome that has plagued Toronto in recent seasons was in effect once again as the home team was snapped back to reality in a dreadfully dull 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

"It definitely wasn't our best effort," centre Matt Stajan said as his team's home record fell to 1-6-1. "You can ask anyone in the building."

There barely were enough left in the final five minutes to muster a meaningful boo as the Leafs' two-game winning streak and run of seven in a row with points fizzled away.

Three unanswered goals in the second period did the damage, but the Leafs seemed uninspired from the start, in sharp contrast to their 5-1 win over Detroit on Saturday on the same ice.

"We have to be a lot more intense," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We're not good enough to get full of ourselves after we have a couple of good weeks.

"I was disappointed in our approach ... but more teaching tools for me."

The Leafs' problems on Tuesdays certainly are not a new phenomenon. For a schedule not exactly loaded with marquee opponents -- those usually are reserved for the weekend -- the folks in the building may as well be in pews. Toronto has lost all four Tuesday home games this season, falling to Ottawa, Colorado, Tampa Bay and now Minnesota, which previously never had won at the ACC.

"We've got to be better," Stajan said. "Tuesday nights we haven't been able to put a full 60 minutes together. Especially after coming against one of the better teams in the league, you want to come out and take it to them."

As sobering as it was sleepy, the reality check came hard. Minnesota took advantage of a flat Leafs team that can't even be bailed out by rookie goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.

Minnesota opened the scoring on the power play at 17:42 of the first when Martin Havlat fooled the Monster with a wraparound and bounced the puck in off his skate.

"I thought he was going to shoot," said Gustavsson, who was making his fourth consecutive start. "I wasn't ready for that. I didn't have my best game. I should have had at least a couple of them."

The Wild lead lasted all of 26 seconds when Alex Ponikarovsky scored his seventh, burying a shot from the side of the net.

The Wild regained the lead on a two-man advantage at 5:44 of the second after the Leafs were given a questionable delay of game penalty for shooting the puck out of play. Marek Zidlicky's shot from the point appeared to hit a skate then glanced off Gustavsson's right pad and in.

Mikko Koivu made it 3-1 at 17:29 when three Leafs lost a battle behind their own net. And just 26 seconds later the Wild went up by three when Tomas Kaberle deflected a point shot from Greg Zanon that Gustavsson had no chance to snag.

Leafs forward Phil Kessel scored his second as Leaf, burying a breakaway shot on Backstrom with 1:55 left. But by then, most at the ACC were ready to move on.

"We seem to struggle when it's not Saturday at home," Wilson said. "Emotionally we came out flat."

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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