Same old is getting old

Senators' Chris Kelly and Leafs' Carl Gunnarsson battle for position in front of goaltender Vesa...

Senators' Chris Kelly and Leafs' Carl Gunnarsson battle for position in front of goaltender Vesa Toskala during first period action at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Errol McGihon)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

OTTAWA -- With Scotiabank Place buzzing with intensity and bad blood last night, it was almost reminiscent of some of the bitter Battle of Ontarios of yesteryear.

Except this time, there was no Mats Sundin to save the day on the offensive end.

And no Curtis Joseph or Ed Belfour standing on their respective heads between the pipes to thwart the hated Ottawa Senators.

Instead, it was the same old tired story, the same old broken record, the same old warts that have plagued the Maple Leafs all season long.

Yes, they played well enough to win in this heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Senators.

But with just three wins in 19 games, moral victories aren't worth a damn any more, especially when the script never seems to change.

And now, the difficult questions need to be asked.

First off, when was the last time a Maple Leafs goalie stole a game for this team the way the Sens' Pascal Leclaire did last night, especially in the third period when he turned aside all 15 Toronto shots at a time when the ice seemed steeply tilted in favour of the visitors?

Answer: Maybe you have to go all the way back to (gasp) Andrew Raycroft. Who'd have ever thought that?

Secondly, can someone possibly help out Phil Kessel on the offensive end?

Answer: They had better, or this free fall will continue. Kessel, who had not played in six months after undergoing shoulder surgery, has five goals in the past five games including one last night, more than Jason Blake (2) and Mikhail Grabovski (3) have scored all season. Unacceptable.

Finally, when will this team ever learn to get off to a good start? For the 17th time in 19 games, the Leafs surrendered the opening goal last night, a recipe that will leave you among the league's bottom feeders.

Answer: With the Carolina Hurricanes having gained a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens last night, they now are tied with the Leafs for the league basement with 11 points heading into tomorrow's tilt at the RBC Center in Raleigh.

Rubbing salt into the wound is the continued struggles of second-year defenceman Luke Schenn, who played just one shift in the third period.

And so it goes.

"This has got to come to an end at some point," defenceman Ian White said. "It's frustrating. We just turn the puck over too many times."

Coach Ron Wilson agreed.

"Every time we turn the puck over it ends up in our net," Wilson said. "There are some guys who just are not paying attention to what we are telling them."

That has been the case on far too many evenings this season.

Mike Fisher scored a pair for the Sens, with Milan Michalek adding a single. Kessel and Nik Hagman replied for the Leafs.

With almost 2,000 empty seats sprinkled around Scotiabank Place, the Leafs must have felt like it was a home game. The no-shows definitely were Ottawa supporters, as there was no shortage of Toronto fans in the house.

Toskala, coming off his best outing of the season in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Friday, got the call in goal.

NOT CLICKING

This is the same Vesa Toskala who has not won a regular-season game since Feb. 26 when he beat the New York Islanders 5-4 in a shootout. One start later, the Leafs brass shut him down so he could undergo hip and groin surgeries.

"I made a couple of good saves, (Leclaire) made a couple of good saves," Toskala said. "We worked hard but we just couldn't get that last one."

Same old tired story.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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