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Leafs Lose Eighth Straight on Soft Goals

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs


TORONTO - For the balance of their losing streak, the Toronto Maple Leafs were done in by the goals they didn't score. It reached eight because of goals Jonathan Bernier should not have given up.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored from the other side of the centre red-line and Martin Hanzal from the goal-line as the Leafs lost to the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. Toronto fell to 0-7-1 in its past eight games.

Bernier stopped 42 of the 45 shots he faced on a night the offensively-challenged Coyotes (17-25-6) carried the play. He couldn't do much on a late deflection, but two improbable goals in under four minutes spelled his undoing.

Ekman-Larsson's goal was a harmless flip from almost his own blue-line off the opening faceoff of the third period and seemed to stun the already-subdued crowd. At five seconds, the short-handed goal tied the fastest of any kind to start a period in Coyotes franchise history, matching Doug Smail of the first Winnipeg Jets in 1981.

Despite keeping the Leafs (22-24-4) in the game for the first two periods, Bernier got some Bronx cheers for stopping an even more harmless clear early in the third. Fans were silent again at the 3:47 mark when Hanzal banked the puck in off Bernier's back from the goal-line to give Arizona the lead.

The Leafs were playing from a position of strength after Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith (24 saves on 25 shots) gave up a soft goal of his own to Phil Kessel in the first period. Kessel took a pass from James van Riemsdyk on the rush and beat Smith five-hole at 16:33.

Before facing the Coyotes, Kessel hadn't scored an even-strength goal in 18 games, dating back to Dec. 16 against the Anaheim Ducks. This was his 20th, extending his streak of at least 20 goals to seven seasons.

The Coyotes scored on a deflection at 16:30 of the third when a point shot from Keith Yandle went off Sam Gagner and might have hit Hanzal in front before going in. Arizona's 45 shots were its most this year.

Bernier was strong for the game's first 40 minutes, making an important right-pad stop on Hanzal at the tail end of a double-minor penalty in the second period to go along with 20 others. But this hasn't been the starting goalie's best month, as Bernier entered with an .887 save percentage.

That hasn't helped the Leafs during their transition to interim coach Peter Horachek's more defensive style. They've scored a total of seven goals during this eight-game skid, so there isn't one source of the losing.

It also doesn't help that the Leafs have been banged-up. Winger Joffrey Lupul returned from an 11-game absence to face the Coyotes, but captain Dion Phaneuf and fellow defenceman Stephane Robidas remained out.

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