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Toronto Maple Leafs Take Bullet to the Head in Shoot Out

Mark RitterSenior Writer INovember 20, 2009

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 19: Jonas Gustavsson #50 of the Toronto Maple Leafs can't stop a second period shot by Stephane Yelle #18 of the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center on November 19, 2009 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Blessed with a 3-0 lead after one period of play, the Toronto Maple Leafs looked poised to avoid having the Carolina Hurricanes leap frog them in the standings for the “coveted” 29th overall spot in the NHL, the position the Leafs occupied before tonight’s “epic” battle against the ‘Canes.

Well, Leaf fans, apparently your beloved Maple Leafs didn’t get the memo from environment Canada about the impending Hurricane, forgot to batten down the hatches and, as a result, got blown away by a potent offensive attack in the form of Hurricanes Brandan Sutter, Tim Gleason, Tuomo Ruutu and others.

The improbable storm that was the Carolina Hurricanes on this evening was yet another reminder of just how far off the Leafs are from being considered a legitimate threat to any NHL opponent.

Brandon Sutter, who played a helluva game tonight, single-handily willed the Hurricanes back into the game with his unrelenting checking and tremendous work in the neutral zone, which helped his teammates gain valuable space on the ice.

On the score sheet, the Hurricanes' Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu were the heroes on the night. Gleason, who had two goals in 16 games heading into tonight’s tilt, scored two goals in the second period, while Ruutu had four assists on the night.

The Leafs' penchant for horrific defense, poor goaltending, terrible turnovers, inability to stop a shot in the shoot-out, and mental lapses that would give a 100-year-old retiree a run for his money, all conspired to hand the Leafs their fifth straight loss, bringing their overall record to 3-11-6 on the season.

In case you didn’t catch on earlier, the loss means the Leafs are now the sole occupants of last place in the NHL standings, a place where many prognosticators are becoming more and more comfortable penciling in the Leafs to finish the season.

For Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, tonight serves as yet another reminder that his squad is glaringly unprepared on a nightly basis and conceivably unable to muster up enough confidence to kick an opponent when it is down.

Simply put, the Leafs gave this game away and, while the Hurricanes deserved some props for their hard work in the second and third periods, there is no excuse for the Leafs' disinterested, undisciplined, effortless play.

Veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who is playing with a broken finger, played as if it was his first NHL game. Throwing pucks into the slot area, forcing pucks up the middle, and causing countless turnovers, simply put, he was brutal.

Luke Schenn, the Leafs' poster boy of the 2008-09 season, continued to play a very tentative game and looked very slow out on the ice. His decision making has been questionable for most of the season, as has his hockey sense, which seems to have regressed horribly.

After fighting back from 3-0 and and 4-2 deficits to tie the game at four goals apiece, the Hurricanes fell behind yet again when Leafs defenseman Ian White snapped one past Hurricanes goaltender Manny Legace, making it 5-4 Maple Leafs.

With only 30 seconds left in the third period, the Leafs looked to have dodged a bullet...and then it happened...the Leafs gave up the tying goal with just three seconds left.

Nothing was solved in overtime, which led to the teams to decide the game in a shoot-out.

Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu made a fool of rookie goaltender Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson, scoring a beauty of a goal to start the shoot-out. Next up, Toronto’s Phil Kessel, who tried to go high and missed.

Jussi Jokinen took the next shot for the ‘Canes and, as Rutuu did before him, made Gustavsson look silly with another crafty goal. Next up, the ever-intimidating Lee Stempniak, who, despite his “exceptional” offensive prowess, neglected to take much of a shot, if any at all.

The Hurricanes won 6-5, handing the Maple Leafs another loss.

Looking ahead, the NHL schedule will not get any easier for the Leafs. Saturday night, Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals visit the ACC, followed by a matchup against the New York Islanders led by rookie sensation John Tavares.

Let’s face it: If the Leafs can’t keep an injury-plagued Hurricanes squad off the score sheet, they are likely going to get slaughtered by the Capitals, who, through 21 games, are averaging 3.67 goals per game, tops in the NHL.

To say the Leafs “pooped the bed” tonight would be an understatement. Why is it I feel the storm has just begun???

Until next time,

Peace!

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