Paul Ranger stretchered off in Leafs loss to Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Paul Ranger is carted off the ice after a taking a hit from Tampa...

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Paul Ranger is carted off the ice after a taking a hit from Tampa Bay Lightning centre Alex Killorn at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, March 19, 2014. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:19 PM ET

TORONTO - At a time of the season when NHL teams count on every man to deliver his best effort, the Maple Leafs can count only their losses.

On Wednesday night, those included another siphoning of James Reimer’s confidence, more setbacks for defensive zone tactics, possible long-term injury to defenceman Paul Ranger and a continuing, alarming drop in the conference standings.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, which has passed the Leafs since Steven Stamkos came back from a broken leg, were paced by the Markham native’s hat trick in zapping his hometown team, 5-3. From Saturday afternoon when winger Joffrey Lupul spoke of girding for a run at second place in the division, the Leafs have lost three games to clubs close to them in the Eastern playoff race. The win allowed Tampa to move three points ahead, keeping the Leafs in wild-card country, with two games still in hand.

Ranger, who had just found a nice groove as a seventh defencemen, suffered a head/neck injury on a late first period hit by Lightning forward Alex Killorn. With just a few seconds to play, Ranger was going after a puck with Killorn on his tail. Hoping to freeze the puck and kill the clock rather than carry it, Ranger reversed direction, but put himself in a vulnerable position with his back to Killhorn as he finished the heavy check.


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