February 28, 2006(TORONTO)
-- It was a long time coming but after being out for over two months with an injury to his right wrist, Eric Lindros was back in the lineup Tuesday night.
Head coach Pat Quinn didn't ease Lindros back as the forward played 13:52 minutes on the night including 4:01 on the power play.
Lindros was pleased to finally get back into game action even though his club couldn't pull out the victory falling 5-3.
"Timing is off," Lindros said. "I have to get my timing back and I had a little trouble controlling the puck, it's the first one back and we can gain something from it and go back at it Friday."
It didn't look like No. 88 had missed so much time. He had numerous chances, took the body and almost scored a goal in the second when he batted in a rebound with his glove.
In the third, the trio of Kyle Wellwood, Lindros and Chad Kilger pulled the Leafs to 5-3 when Kilger used his blistering shot to score his 13th of the year but that was as close they came.
While the Leafs received a strong effort from Lindros, the rest of the team seemed to still be on the Olympic break.
With only 24 games left in the season, a smarter defensive approach is something that will need to be improved on.
The first Capitals goal occurred 37 seconds in after bad defensive zone coverage. The costly goals continued, the second goal after Jason Allison had a horrible giveaway and it was 2-0 nothing barely five minutes into the game.
Despite getting out of the first period tied at two, the second period started and ended on a tough note. 19 seconds into the second Alexander Ovechkin had the puck go off his leg and in as Ed Belfour had left the crease to play the puck.
The next two goals also came courtesy of Leafs miscues, Alexander Khavanov's attempted clearing pass went off a stick and right to a wide open Ben Clymer who easily beat Belfour. Late in the second, Bryan McCabe's point shot was blocked and Matt Pettinger was in alone on Belfour and before you knew it the Leafs were down 5-2 after 40 minutes.
Quinn realizes that if things don't improve soon, the team could be on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around in April.
"Those are the kinds of mistakes we can't make at this time of the year," he said. "It's easy to be frustrated when things aren't going your way, you start pointing the finger but you have to be accountable."
With the Leafs losing ground in the hunt for the eighth playoff spot the pressure will continue to mount.
"They're aware, it will be addressed all the way through, it's a sprint to the playoffs and we have to start playing now because if we don't we won't be playing," Quinn said. "We have to play mistake free hockey or we won't be playing in the playoffs, they understand that but we didn't do it tonight."
The next chance for the Leafs to turn things around will be Friday night when they are in Buffalo, a place that always gives them trouble. A win over the Sabres will go along way in building confidence in a team that desperately needs it.