|Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matt Stajan crashes into Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov Wednesday. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)
TORONTO -- When the Phoenix Coyotes play at home at the Jobing.com Arena, hardly anyone shows up.
When the Coyotes play the Maple Leafs, hardly anyone wearing blue and white shows up.
The Leafs certainly went AWOL for most of the opening two periods last night, as Phoenix scored once in the first and four times in the second en route to a 6-3 victory over Toronto — their fourth win in a row over the Leafs. The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak by Toronto and a four-game win streak at the Air Canada Centre.
“In hindsight, I wished we had practiced (Tuesday),” Toronto head coach Ron Wilson said. “But we’re a little run-down and tired, we’ve been busy with the schedule we had and that kind of showed the first 30 minutes or so of the game. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be against a team that plays a determined game. We just have to put it behind us and move on.”
Petr Prucha scored twice to lead the Phoenix attack as the surprising Coyotes improved to 20-12-2 while Toronto dropped to 12-15-7.
Trailing 5-2, the Leafs did dominate the Coyotes in the third, firing 14 shots at Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, but only managed one goal, by Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala, who also had won his past two games and four out of his past five, was shaky on a couple of Phoenix goals, but his defencemen were scrambling and disorganized in front of him most of the night.
Indeed, on the opening goal by Phoenix, Prucha managed to sneak behind defenceman Mike Komisarek on a power play for an easy goal.
On the Coyotes’ second goal, the Toronto defence tandem of Jeff Finger and Garnet Exelby went momentarily brain dead. Prucha made a nice move around Finger, was stymied by Toskala on a backhand, but managed to find the rebound as the puck lay in the crease area for a few seconds and scored his second of the game and sixth of the season.
Toronto forward Niklas Hagman wore the goat horns on the Coyotes’ third goal as defenceman Keith Yandle made a nice spin move around Hagman at the point, starting a play that ended with Vernon Fiddler scoring his fourth of the season on a backhand.
Phil Kessel, with his 13th goal in 22 games for Toronto, and Jamal Mayers, his first of the season, scored the other Leafs goals. Paul Bissonnette, Scotty Upshall and Radim Vrbata, into an empty net, were the other Phoenix goal-scorers.
The Leafs will practice today and then have two tough games in a row — tomorrow in Buffalo and then back at the ACC on Saturday against the Boston Bruins.
Toskala said that the Leafs’ loss to the Coyotes last night proved that the Blue and White can’t let up if they expect to keep winning and fight for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to play at a high level to beat anybody in this league,” Toskala said. “When we take our foot off the gas even a little bit, (we’re) not good enough.
“We’ll bounce back,” Wilson added. “We’ve been through these kind of games before. They creep up every once in a while.”