by Mike Ball
February 14, 2003
TORONTO -- This was not the way Pat Quinn and the Maple Leafs were hoping to end their week.
After going 7-2-1-0 over the last ten games, the Leafs started strong and ended up deflated in the 6-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Air Canada Centre Saturday night.
"I thought our defence wasn't very good tonight. Their third goal was a workers' goal and then the rest were outnumbered rushes and poor coverage," said Quinn. "I thought our defence, well that's as poor a game as our defence has played in a while."
| The Leafs were scrambling to keep the pucks out by the third. |
The capper on how things went after the early success came with under a minute to go, Toronto down by one and the extra attacker.
Robert Reichel sent a straight-as-a-laser pass out from behind the Sabres goal that slid perfectly down the middle of the ice untouched and into the empty net for the insurance the Sabres would need.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Buffalo goaltender Mika Noronen was given credit for the goal after the game when review showed he was the last Sabre to touch the puck prior to Reichel's unfortunate set-up attempt.
Noronen becomes just the seventh goalie to find the twine in NHL history.
Ed Belfour was forced to sit out again as his lower back has again flared up on him. Trevor Kidd stepped in again and was solid in the first stopping 11 shots, but after the Leafs scored the first three goals in the second, the defence seemed to abandon him.
"I felt pretty good throughout the whole game actually," said Kidd. "They made some plays and scored on them. The quick plays from behind the net.
"I felt good following the puck and made some stops in alone in the first and second periods, but they scored more than we did tonight, so ..."
Belfour is in the day-to-day category and Quinn couldn't speculate as to a return time.
"It popped up today and I don't know if it's going to be long," said the coach.
On the positive side for Toronto was the return of Tom Fitzgerald who tallied a Johnnie-on-the-spot deflection goal in the second. However, despite notching one in the scoresheet, Fitzgerald wasn't pleased with the night.
"Tonight a lot of us didn't do our jobs and the end result was that we didn't get two points," said Fitzgerald. "Tomorrow's a new day, but we sure have to learn from this if we want to have a strong performance in the postseason. Games like this, you can't let slip away and we did, but the past history of this team, we've always learned from mistakes and turned them into positives."
The Leafs will look for their next positive Monday night in Pittsburgh versus Ric Jackman and the Penguins.