Toronto was building momentum with a healthy Vesa Toskala in net. Without their No. 1 goaltender, the Maple Leafs haven’t looked like a team capable of reaching the playoffs.
The Maple Leafs could be without Toskala for a seventh straight game Wednesday night when they open a three-game California road trip against the resurgent Anaheim Ducks.
Although he started slowly in his first season with Toronto (16-18-8), Toskala had played well enough lately to become the team’s clear No. 1 goalie. He is 7-3-1 with one shutout and a 1.81 goals-against average in his last 11 starts, although he hasn’t played since Dec. 22 because of a groin injury.
Without Toskala, the Maple Leafs have struggled to a 1-4-1 record, allowing 26 goals. They are last in the Northeast Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference with 40 points.
Andrew Raycroft hasn’t been the answer in Toskala’s absence, going 0-3-1 with a 4.47 GAA in his last four starts. Scott Clemmensen, who began the season in the minors, is 1-1-0 with a 4.33 GAA in two starts this month.
Toskala practiced Sunday and could return on this trip, which includes stops at Los Angeles on Thursday and San Jose on Saturday.
Toronto is 13-11-4 with Toskala in goal, and 3-7-4 without him.
Raycroft, who hasn’t won since Nov. 9, didn’t play poorly Saturday, but was bested by counterpart Antero Niittymaki in the Maple Leafs’ 3-2 loss to visiting Philadelphia.
Captain Mats Sundin scored both goals for Toronto, which lost despite a 56-32 shot advantage.
“We played a good game, but it’s like we don’t know how to win the close games,” Sundin said. “We have to become smarter and learn what it takes to win.”
The 542nd and 543rd goals of Sundin’s career moved him past Stan Mikita into 25th place all-time. His next goal will tie him with Maurice Richard.
Sundin continues to produce, tallying four goals and two assists in his last five games to give him 48 points. He has a shot at his first 100-point season since recording a career-high 114 in 1992-93 with Quebec.
Center Nik Antropov, however, has cooled off considerably. Antropov - second on the team with 35 points - has no goals in his last 11 contests and is pointless in nine games.
Anaheim (22-17-6) has rebounded from a sluggish start, and appears ready to assert itself as one of the league’s elite teams again.
The Ducks are 3-0-1 in their last four games and 7-2-1 in their past 10, a surge that’s moved them to within two points of Dallas and San Jose for the Pacific Division lead.
Chris Pronger and Corey Perry scored power-play goals 1:10 apart to cap a four-goal spurt in the second period as Anaheim beat Nashville 5-2 on Monday. The Ducks had been held to two goals or fewer in 10 of their previous 12 games.
“We stuck with the same program that we’ve been sticking with the last few weeks - getting the puck in deep, cycling it and taking it to the net. Tonight we finally started getting the bounces,” Perry said.
Ryan Getzlaf added a goal and an assist, extending his point streak to a career high-tying eight games. He has four goals and six assists during the run.
The Maple Leafs have won four of their last five overall meetings with the Ducks, but lost their last visit to Anaheim on Nov. 11, 2003. Toronto’s last win there came March 11, 1998.