TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs are simply trying to stop the bleeding.
After losing captain Dion Phaneuf with a deep gash in his left leg and nearly setting a new franchise-worst goal drought, the Maple Leafs finally found a way to break through against the Ottawa Senators. Even though they went on to lose 3-2 Tuesday, the players tried to take some solace in the fact the team managed to score.
“We finally burst the bubble at least,” said forward Clarke MacArthur.
Brian Elliott was poised to become the third straight goalie to blank Toronto until Francois Beauchemin trickled a point shot by him at 5:15 of third period. That ended the team’s goal drought at 167 minutes 39 seconds, making it the franchise’s longest since 1927, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
The Maple Leafs went 181:45 without scoring from Dec. 3 to Dec. 8, 1927.
MacArthur went on to add another goal with 50.3 seconds to play. He’s one of the few Toronto forwards who has lived up to expectations this season — in fact, he’s exceeded them with seven goals in 11 games.
“It feels like when it rains, it pours,” said MacArthur. “The only way to get through (a slump) is just to start putting the pucks in deep and keeping it more simple plays. I think once we did that, when we went to the meat potatoes style of hockey, (we were successful). As soon we started banging and getting pucks out of the corners, I mean we were all over them in the third period.
“It’s just frustrating that we can’t do that a little earlier.”
Making matters worse for Toronto was the fact Phaneuf left during the second period after getting tied up awkwardly with Ottawa’s Peter Regin. He needed assistance to get to the team’s dressing room and was seen leaving the arena on a stretcher by a reporter from Rogers Sportsnet.
“He’s got a cut on his leg,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “It was deep enough that they wanted to take him to the hospital to determine the extent of the injury. That’s the last I heard.”
It seems extremely unlikely that Phaneuf will be able to play Wednesday when the Leafs visit Washington. The captain’s equipment was still hanging in his locker stall after everyone else’s had been packed up on Tuesday night.
Somewhat lost in all the drama surrounding the Leafs was the fact Ottawa managed to beat its provincial rival for the first time since last November. Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson and Mike Fisher scored for the Senators (5-6-1), who put some of their own goal-scoring woes behind them.
“It’s a good hard-fought win,” said Elliott, who finished with 33 saves.
Toronto’s record fell to 5-5-1, leaving the Leafs tied with Ottawa for third in the Northeast Division. The team is 1-5-1 in its last seven games, scoring just nine goals over that span.
GM Brian Burke held an impromptu media scrum during the first intermission to chastise fans who had been booing Phaneuf. He also addressed the scoring woes.
“Well, it’s dried up a lot,” said Burke. “Obviously, we’re having trouble putting the puck in the net right now. I have nothing pending that might solve that. We’re going to have to solve it internally for now.”
After Fisher opened the scoring on a penalty shot, the Leafs had a number of opportunities to tie the game. The signs of frustration were evident after they failed to cash on consecutive power plays early in the second period, with Phil Kessel hammering the puck into the boards after one whistle.
Shortly after Phaneuf was injured on a fairly innocent-looking play — “I didn’t mean to hurt him if I did,” said Regin — Gonchar and Karlsson struck just over two minutes apart to make it 3-0 for Ottawa.
Giguere said the Leafs tried to compose themselves during the second intermission by deciding to focus only on outscoring Ottawa in the third period. It was a goal they were able to meet.
“We’re disappointed, but they’re fixable things,” said Wilson. “We’ve gotten in a little bit of a scoring slump but in third period we started to come out of it. That’s a good sign.”
The next challenge comes quickly with a road game against the Capitals looming. Toronto lost both of its games at the Verizon Center a year ago, getting outscored 12-5 in the process.
They’ll also likely be playing without their leader.
“He’s been the heart and soul here so far,” said MacArthur. “He goes down, (Brett) Lebda’s got a Stanley Cup ring and he’s ready to go. It’s a tough loss obviously, but it’s time for guys to pick up the slack.”
Notes:Lebda and John Mitchell were healthy scratches for Toronto. … Ottawa sat out Milan Michalek and Brian Lee. … Country singer Carrie Underwood attended the game and will perform at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday. She is married to Fisher. … Announced attendance was 19,409.