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Shootout comes back to haunt Leafs 1 more time

NHL.com @NHL

TORONTO (AP) -The Toronto Maple Leafs' season ended with another shootout loss.

But this time, the Maple Leafs could only watch as their playoff hopes slipped away in New Jersey.

The Leafs were only 4-7 in shootouts this season, for the second year in a row struggling in the extra session. And the irony of the New York Islanders using the shootout to beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Sunday was lost on no one.

"I've been saying for some time this year, it's great for the fans, it's hard for managers and coaches," a disappointed John Ferguson, the Maple Leafs general manager, said Sunday evening. "And watching another team control your fate is doubly hard, especially when there's no time to do anything about it."

The Islanders' dramatic win on the last day of the regular season knocked Toronto out of the playoffs a day after a riveting win over Montreal at Air Canada Centre kept the Maple Leafs' hopes alive.

Ferguson was back at the arena to watch the Islanders game and found no fault in the Devils for not starting superstar goalie Martin Brodeur.

"There was no chance he was going to be in net today and I think we all would have been shocked if he was," said Ferguson. "We controlled our destiny, we look to ourselves here. We left it one point short and that's what came back to bite us."

Losing 5-2 on Long Island on Thursday is one of many games the Leafs would like to have back.

"Sure, we can look at that one point in a lot of places over 82 games," said Ferguson.

The Isles had a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead in the third period Sunday before New Jersey scored twice, including the tying goal with less than one second left in regulation, to force overtime and revive Toronto's playoff hopes.

"I'm sure for the fans it was pretty exciting," said Maple Leafs forward Kyle Wellwood, attending Sunday night's Raptors NBA game. "When New Jersey scored at the end, it was unbelievable. With 15 seconds left, it looked like the Islanders were going to the clear the puck.

"When Jersey scored, we figured things might go our way."

Ferguson fought to control tears talking to the media in the Maple Leafs dressing room moments after the Isles' victory.

"It's going to take a little while to collect my thoughts here," Ferguson said. "Disappointing... A lot of good things happened for us this year. Some great play from a lot of the younger players. But all that's lost on us at this point."

It was an exciting stretch run that fell just short, highlighted by big wins over New Jersey, Buffalo, Ottawa and Montreal. But the last few weeks of the season will also be remembered for key losses at Washington, Buffalo and Long Island.

"Just an exciting finish to the season but clearly disappointing for us," Ferguson said. "We had enough opportunities during the year to take advantage of it. I had said during the year that I thought we needed to get to 10 games over .500, we got to nine and got the right to cheer for the Devils."

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