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Slumping Leads drop fourth in a row after anemic effort against Nashville

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TORONTO - Four losses in a row. Five losses in six games. Eight losses in 10 games.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are officially slumping.

Toronto fell 2-0 to the visiting Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, and have managed just five goals during their current four-game losing skid. Overall, the Leafs are 16-21-6 and sit 11th overall in the Eastern Conference, nine points out of the playoffs.

"We can make up excuses if we want, but we have to find a way," said right-winger Nik Antropov, mired in an 11-game goalless drought. "We haven't been able to find a way the past few weeks and that's been the difference."

Toronto fired a season-low 17 shots at Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, a far cry from the 30-plus shots they rang up in 15 of 16 games earlier in the season.

"Every team goes through stretches like this, when they can't score, and that's what we're going through right now," said Leafs defenceman Pavel Kubina. "We have to go back to our first 25 or 30 games of the season when we were getting 35-40 shots per game and outshooting all of our opponents.

"Right now, we're not scoring. One goal in our last two games, that's not enough."

Despite the loss, the play Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala was a silver lining for Toronto. The defeat was Toskala's fourth in a row and seventh in eight decisions (1-7-0) but the Finnish stopper looked sharper than he has in recent games. Both of Nashville's markers were quality goals, and the two goals surrendered sparkles compared to the 13 goals he gave up in is previous three starts. He was pulled for the third period against Montreal last Thursday.

"Vesa was good for us tonight," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "He made a lot of big saves when we needed them."

While the Leafs hope their goals-against average will improve - at 3.44, it ranks 28th in the 30-team NHL - Toronto needs to jump-start its offence as well. The Leafs have scored just 17 goals while losing eight of their last 10 games. They did beat Atlanta 4-3 on Dec. 30 and Ottawa 3-1 on Jan. 3, but the Thrashers and Senators are struggling even worse than Toronto. Atlanta is 12th in the East, Ottawa sits 13th.

"We have to get back to basics," Antropov said. "Hopefully we can get a few early goals in our next game and get out of this. If we can get a couple goals, then a wineverything will start rolling."

The Leafs travel to Carolina to play the Hurricanes on Thursday and are in Atlanta to face the Thrashers on Friday. Two of Toronto's past three victories have come against Atlanta - the Leafs also downed the Thrashers 6-2 on Dec. 22

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