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Roller Coaster Ride For Leafs

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

January 26, 2006

(TORONTO) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs came out strong, then got flustered, then recovered, then got flustered again and ultimately lost, 8-4, to the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night at Air Canada Centre.

It was precisely the kind of up and down results that have plagued the Leafs throughout their now seven game losing streak, the team's longest in nine years. The question now is how do they turn it around before they fall further out of the playoff picture?

Ed Belfour's play will be questioned after this game, but of his four goals against, two were deflections that he couldn't be faulted on. Head coach Pat Quinn is never one to get the hook out early either, but he felt on this night, down 4-1, that a change would help the team's fragile psyche.

"I'm not standing here now pointing the finger at him," said Quinn. "We made the change to see what was going in the other guys' minds."

With Mikael Tellqvist between the pipes, the Leafs battled back to make it 4-3 on goals by Alex Steen and Alexei Ponikarovsky. At that point it looked like Toronto was poised to complete the comeback, but a neutral-zone turnover helped Jason Pominville score on a half breakaway to deflate the team once again.

Penalties played a factor from that point on in a positive and negative light. While down a man Toronto pulled to within a goal on a beautiful shorthanded marker by Alexander Khavanov just before the end of the second period.

However, two third-period powerplay markers put this one out of reach. A shorthanded emptynetter made it 8-4 as the home crowd let their feelings be known that they aren't happy with the team's lack of Ws of late.

With the losses mounting, Quinn is trying to squeeze everything out of his squad. Not only did he look to the goaltending change for a boost but he also put his captain on the point during powerplays, something that hasn't happened very often during the Pat Quinn era. It resulted in some strong puck movement and two goals on the PP.

"We tried it just to give us a little better look," said Quinn. "We'll practise it more. It gives us a little bit better playmaking and firepower back there."

Every season is going to have peaks and valleys. You never play as bad as you think you did and you never play as good as you think you did. That would explain Quinn's subdued demeanor during his postgame presser. He is seeing improvement and if it continues they will ultimately end the losing.

Toronto will look to earn two points Saturday in a very big game against the Montreal Canadiens.

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