The Slide Continues - Flames Take Down Leafs 5-1
The Toronto Maple Leafs are enduring their worst stretch of the season at the worst possible time. For the first time this season Toronto has lost four straight games following an un-excusable loss in Calgary to the Flames tonight. Prior to the game the Leaf players were discussing the importance of the match-up and how they needed to come out of the gate strong and set the tone for this brief three game road trip. Unfortunately the players failed to back up their words as the first period was one to forget for the buds. Both teams traded chances within the first few minutes as the defenses were nowhere to be seen. Calgary opened the scoring when the top line of Tanguay, Jokinen and Iginla capitalized on the absent defensive zone coverage of the Lupul, Bozak and Kessel line. Tanguay found a soft spot in the slot and calmly beat Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson for his 7th of the season. Just over four minutes later the Flames' trio exposed the Leafs top line again as Jokinen and Iginla took advantage of a bad decision by Mike Komisarek to break out on a two on one. Iginla fed Jokinen who deposited a one timer by Gustavsson for a 2-0 lead. Tyler Bozak got one back for the Leafs as he banged in his second rebound and the Leafs were apparently right back in the game.
The game could have been much worse and if not for Gustavsson definitely would have been. With Carl Gunnarsson missing out of the Leafs blueline the defensive play was atrocious. Gustavsson bailed out his clueless teammates routinely on the night, and kept his team in the game. As Toronto tried to get the equalizer they took unnecessary risks that the Flames finally capitalized on. Paul Byron was hauled down on a breakaway by Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and was justly awarded a penalty shot. Byron slowly came in on Jonas, found a hole above his blocker and restored the Flames' two goal advantage. The Leafs did have their fare share of chances, but Mikka Kipprusoff once again demonstrated that he is one of the best goalies in the league.
Blake Comeau and Jarome Iginla added goals late in the third period to embarrass the Leafs, but the outcome was already decided by that point. The Leafs need to turn this around starting tomorrow in Edmonton, or they will legitimately be looking in on the playoffs soon.
Men of the Match
Leafs: Tyler Bozak - The Leafs' first line centre was up to the task tonight as he seemed to be one of the only players to show up for the buds in Calgary. He scored his 13th of the season as he doggedly pounded away in front of Kipprusoff. Hopefully he has enough gas left in the tank for tomorrow night.
Flames: Alex Tanguay - The former Avalanche star and Stanley Cup winner was dominant on the night as he recorded a goal and two assists. Tanguay is at his best when he is creating for his linemates, and his full arsenal of weapons was on display tonight. He made the Leafs poor defensive zone coverage pay.
Next Game: The Leafs travel to Edmonton to face the Oilers Wednesday night in a must win for the blue and white.