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Playoff Pulse: Leafs come up short against Bruins

by John Kreiser
After watching the Toronto Maple Leafs win in his debut as coach on Saturday night in Montreal, Randy Carlyle got a good idea of the size of the task ahead of him in his second game behind the bench.

The Leafs' effort was there Tuesday night against Boston. But so were the defensive problems that helped make Ron Wilson an ex-coach. The Leafs blew numerous assignments in their own zone, often hanging goaltender Jonas Gustavsson out to dry in what turned into a 5-4 loss before a disappointed sellout crowd at Air Canada Centre.

Boston's first four goals all were scored from around the blue paint -- leaving Carlyle very unhappy.

"They can't continually give up quality scoring chances. Those are the things we have to correct as a group," Carlyle said. "That's all part of the process here with this hockey club. We got enough goals to win the hockey game; it's the defensive aspect of it that needs to be improved upon."

With just two games on the schedule Wednesday, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after a hectic Tuesday:


Division leaders:

New York Rangers (91 points after Tuesday's 4-1 loss at New Jersey) paid the price for a sloppy performance against the Devils. Turnovers by Marian Gaborik and Dan Girardi led directly to goals, and the Rangers managed to get just one puck past Martin Brodeur. They continue a three-game trip Thursday night in Ottawa.

Boston (81 points after Tuesday's 5-4 win at Toronto) got a pair of goals by Jordan Caron and Tyler Seguin but had to battle for the full 60 minutes to beat the Leafs for the fifth time this season. The Bruins have outscored Toronto 28-10 in the five victories.

Florida (74 points) had another day off and doesn't play again until visiting Philadelphia on Thursday.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (83 points) tuned up for Wednesday's visit from Toronto by holding a practice at which captain Sidney Crosby was allowed to take contact. There's still no word when No. 87 will be back in uniform.

Philadelphia (81 points after Tuesday's 3-2 win against Detroit) retired Mark Howe's No. 2 before the game, then held off the Red Wings thanks to a big night by Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 37 saves, and Claude Giroux, who scored one goal and set up another with a shorthanded breakaway.

New Jersey (79 points after Tuesday's 4-1 win against the New York Rangers) avenged a 2-0 loss to their cross-river rival eight days ago thanks to a three-goal third period. David Clarkson scored the go-ahead goal and Ryan Carter added some insurance before Patrik Elias hit the empty net. The Devils begin a home-and-home series against the Islanders in Newark on Thursday.

Ottawa (78 points after Tuesday's 7-3 win at Tampa Bay) jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one period and never trailed as the Senators completed a four-game sweep of the Lightning this season. Milan Michalek had a third-period power-play goal and two empty-netters for his second career hat trick.

Winnipeg (72 points) had the first of two off-days before beginning a two-game trip in Vancouver on Thursday.

On the outside looking in:

Washington (70 points after Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Carolina) couldn't hold a 2-0 lead against the 14th-place Hurricanes, forced overtime when Brooks Laich scored with less than three minutes left in regulation, but saw the extra point go to the Hurricanes when Justin Faulk scored with 1:22 left in OT.

Tampa Bay (68 points after Tuesday's 7-3 loss to Ottawa) hopes that two points was all it lost on Tuesday. Starting goaltender Mathieu Garon will have an MRI on Wednesday after leaving Tuesday's game early in the first period with a lower-body injury sustained after making a save. Backup Dwayne Roloson has struggled for much of the season and allowed five goals on 30 shots after Garon left.

Buffalo (68 points) had Tuesday off after a 3-1 loss at Winnipeg on Monday ended a 3-1-1 road trip. The Sabres are home to Carolina on Wednesday.

Toronto (67 points after Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Boston) showed plenty of energy and hustle in Carlyle's first home game as Leafs coach -- the team worked hard and scored four goals against the usually stingy Bruins. Carlyle won't get much time to try to fix the defensive problems he saw on Tuesday -- the Leafs visit Pittsburgh on Wednesday.


Division leaders:

St. Louis (91 points after Tuesday's 5-1 win against Chicago) defied the adage about teams struggling in their first home game after a long trip by torching the Hawks. Andy McDonald scored a pair of goals and the penalty-killers were perfect for the 11th straight game as the Blues limited Chicago to just 20 shots at Jaroslav Halak, who won his sixth in a row. The Blues moved past Vancouver for the top spot in the West and are even with the Rangers for first place in the overall standings, though New York has played two fewer games.

Vancouver (90 points after Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Dallas) scored the first goal against the Stars, but could manage only one more against rookie goaltender Richard Bachman. The Canucks have lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time in more than four months to drop behind the Blues for first place in the West.

Dallas (77 points after Tuesday's 5-2 win at Vancouver) completed a sweep of its three-game swing through Western Canada by scoring five times in the final 23:14 of the game, improving its current surge to 7-0-1. Mike Ribeiro had a pair of goals and rookie Richard Bachman made 29 saves as the Stars beat the Canucks for the second time in less than 10 days.

The next five:

Detroit (89 points after Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Philadelphia) outshot the Flyers 37-14 in the final two periods, but it wasn't enough. Henrik Zetterberg scored in the first period and Johan Franzen connected in the third, but in-between, the Flyers scored three times against backup goaltender Joey MacDonald -- starter Jimmy Howard is one of six regulars out of the lineup with injuries.

Nashville (83 points after Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Los Angeles) couldn't turn a rare four-goal night into a win. Pekka Rinne had an off-night in set and was lifted after allowing five goals in 43 minutes to the NHL's lowest-scoring team.

Chicago (79 points after Tuesday's 5-1 loss at St. Louis) came up short in its effort to complete a three-game road sweep. Andrew Brunette had the Hawks' only goal as Chicago lost for the first time in four games. The Blackhawks are off for a couple of days until the Rangers come to the United Center on Friday night.

Phoenix (75 points after Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Columbus) lost for the fourth time in as many games in March -- all in regulation -- after going 11-0-1 in February. For the fourth straight game, the Coyotes dug themselves a 2-0 hole and were unable to come back -- despite firing 40 shots at Jackets' goaltender Steve Mason. Phoenix returns to Arena on Thursday to host struggling Minnesota.

San Jose (74 points after Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton) failed to get two points against the next-to-last team in the overall standings. Ryane Clowe put San Jose ahead 2-1 in the second period, but the Oilers tied it less than a minute later and won the shootout. The Sharks went 1-2-1 on their four-game homestand; they begin a four-game trip in Dallas on Thursday.

On the outside looking in:

Los Angeles (74 points after Tuesday's 5-4 win at Nashville) has started to find the net. The Kings beat Pekka Rinne five times in the game's first 43 minutes and held on to win the first game in a week that will see them play four times in six days on the road. Justin Williams scored a pair of goals for L.A.

Colorado (74 points after Tuesday's 7-1 win against Minnesota) torched the reeling Wild behind a balanced scoring effort -- seven players had goals, and newcomer Steve Downie added three assists. However, the Avs may have lost center Matt Duchene, who left in the third period with an ankle injury. He'll be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

Calgary (72 points after Tuesday's 5-4 win against Montreal) nearly blew another lead at home but hung on to beat the Canadiens, the last-place team in the East. Curtis Glencross' goal 7:16 into the third period have Calgary a 5-2 lead, but the Canadiens scored twice and the Flames needed some big stops by Miikka Kiprusoff down the stretch to escape with two points.
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