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Toronto Maple Leafs having tough time keeping puck out of their net

NHL.com @NHL

TORONTO - The Toronto Maple Leafs are having an awfully tough time keeping the puck out of their net these days, but no one's pointing a finger at Vesa Toskala or Andrew Raycroft.

Every player in a blue and white jersey feels some responsibility for the team's defensive struggles.

"We've got to keep four, five, six goals out of our net," forward Alex Steen said after Saturday's 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh. "It's not helping us when they're scoring six goals on us. We've got to minimize the chances they get.

"It's not the defencemen (that are at fault), it's everybody. Us forwards need to come back, help out, and make sure we're available."

No team in the Eastern Conference has allowed more goals than the Leafs.

The loss to the Penguins highlighted a few of the team's weaknesses. The Maple Leafs blew a 3-1 lead but were still tied 4-4 heading into the third period. They then took four minor penalties in the final 20 minutes and Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal on one of those power plays.

Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice believes his defencemen were tired in the third period because they had killed so many penalties earlier in the game.

"When our (defencemen) start taking penalties it's the first sign we're getting fatigued," said Maurice. "And the penalties just keep starting to mount."

Bryan McCabe was the worst offender on Saturday with six penalty minutes and a minus-3 rating. He's the team's highest-paid defenceman and will be among the players looking to have a better effort when the Maple Leafs visit Buffalo on Monday night.

The Sabres game could be a dangerous one. There is no shortage of players in Buffalo that can put the puck in the net and the Maple Leafs always seems to struggle in that city.

But Toronto's focus seems to be largely internal at the moment. Captain Mats Sundin was among those calling for more effort from his teammates.

"We just have to work harder once we lose the puck," he said.

Imagine being a goalie for this team. Toskala has allowed 12 goals in his last two starts and was being applauded by his coach. That won't happen too often in the NHL - or anywhere else for that matter.

Toskala made 47 saves against the Penguins and kept his team in the game. Raycroft also looked good in his last start - an 8-1 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday.

No one's blaming the goaltenders.

"We gave (Toskala) a lot of work," said defenceman Hal Gill. "We just have to simplify and play a little more solid in our end."

Toronto is 2-3-1 despite playing just one game away from the Air Canada Centre so far. They've yet to do anything consistently.

"It's been a crazy start," Sundin said.

Maurice is still waiting for his team to forge an identity. He attributes some of the problems they've been having to a lack of on-ice confidence - particularly when they're defending.

"Because we've struggled in our end they're not at the point where they trust each other," said Maurice. "When we get one guy beat out of the corner, it shouldn't be a clear lane to the net."

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