The Toronto Maple Leafs are mired in their second three-game losing streak of the season. This one has happened for different reasons than the first one did.
The Maple Leafs (13-10-4) hope to rediscover their scoring touch when they face the Montreal Canadiens (14-7-3) on Saturday night in the fourth of eight meetings this season between the Original Six rivals.
Since coasting to a 7-1 victory over Washington on Nov. 24, Toronto has managed two goals during a three-game skid that matches a season high.
The other three-game losing streak came from Oct. 21-26, but poor defense, not lack of offense, was the primary culprit during that span, when the Leafs allowed 18 goals.
Ironically, the current three-game slide has coincided with the return of captain Mats Sundin, who missed three weeks with an elbow injury.
Sundin led Toronto with six shots, but the Leafs allowed four third-period goals in a 5-0 loss at Atlanta on Thursday.
“Anytime you lose three games in a row it is frustrating, and we have a lot of work to do,” Sundin said. “We have to get back. We’re right in the mix of things and there are a lot of teams in the same position as we are, so we have to just start winning hockey games again.”
A lack of production on the power play is one problem Leafs coach Paul Maurice would like to solve. His club is 1-for-19 with the man advantage during the losing streak after converting seven times in 18 opportunities in the previous three games.
“We’re not generating enough and we’re not scoring enough to change the tension of the game,” Maurice said. “It’s all on our side.”
Facing hot goaltenders also has been an issue for the Leafs, and that trend figures to continue Saturday against Montreal’s Cristobal Huet.
Huet had his personal six-game win streak snapped in the Canadiens’ 4-2 loss at Carolina on Thursday despite a career-high 44 saves.
“We knew they were a team that has been having some struggles lately,” Canadiens defenseman Michael Komisarek said. “The longer you let a team like that play, the more confidence they get and the more they believe in themselves. We had some chances early on in the first and we could have buried them. We can’t allow 48 shots and expect to win.”
Huet, coming off a 1-0 shootout victory over Florida on Tuesday, had allowed six goals in his previous six games. He leads the league with a .938 save percentage.
The Leafs and Canadiens split the first two meetings this season, with each winning a shootout on the road, and Toronto recorded a 5-1 home victory Nov. 11.
Leafs defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe have done a good share of the scoring against the Canadiens this season. Kaberle has four goals and three assists, while McCabe has two goals and two assists.