A 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night officially eliminated the Leafs from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, extending the franchise-worst streak to seven seasons.
It was only fitting that the final blow came on home ice. Hours after new coach Randy Carlyle called the team's play at Air Canada Centre ``unacceptable,'' they fell behind 3-0 early in the second period and lost their 10th straight game in front of the disgruntled home fans.
The building began to empty long before the final horn sounded on Cam Ward's 21st career shutout. The Hurricanes goalie finished with 32 saves.
Jussi Jokinen, Tim Brent and Jay Harrison scored goals for Carolina (31-31-15), which kept its own slim playoff hopes alive for at least one more day.
The Maple Leafs saw their record fall to 33-35-9 after being shut out for the seventh time this season. Four of those have come in the past 10 games.
There was very little suspense on a night that saw Carolina grab a 2-0 lead in the first period. Leafs starter Jonas Gustavsson
was deep in his net on both shots, allowing Jokinen to beat him with a backhander at 13:05 and Brent to roof a shot at 18:19.
The second goal brought on boos that would only intensify when Harrison floated a wrist shot past Gustavsson 37 seconds into the second period.
Carlyle responded by sending in Jussi Rynnas
for the first NHL action of his career. The 24-year-old Finn had been called up earlier in the day after expected starter James Reimer
was ruled out with an upper-body injury.
The Leafs attempted to come on from there _ outshooting the Hurricanes 12-7 in the middle period _ but the damage was already done and Ward wasn't going to be beaten.
Toronto has been left beaten and bruised after a shocking collapse that started in the wake of its last home victory on Feb. 6. The team sat sixth in the conference at that point, but has gone 5-16-3 since, costing former coach Ron Wilson his job and almost certainly a few others when general manager Brian Burke starts assessing the damage this summer.
Carlyle delivered strong words about his team's play on home ice prior to the game.
``We have to demonstrate some more will, pride, passion, whatever _ because this has gone on long enough,'' he said after the morning skate. ``That was our message after practice (Monday): That it's unacceptable to have the home record that we have right now.''
It was to no avail. There was almost none of it on display.
Starting Thursday night against Philadelphia, the Leafs have three more chances to try and get a victory at home this season. Otherwise, they'll have gone more than eight weeks in their own building without one to close the year. Notes:
Toronto fell to 4-7-2 under Carlyle ... Carolina won three of four games against the Leafs this season ... Toronto forward Mike Brown
returned to the Leafs lineup after missing nine games with a thigh contusion ... Alternate captains Mike Komisarek
and Colby Armstrong
were scratched ... Announced attendance was 19,348.