TORONTO (AP)—Ed Belfour took the blame for the latest Toronto loss in what has become the Maple Leafs’ worst slump in nine years.
Toronto is mired in its longest losing streak since dropping seven in a row in January 1997.
Fans booed Belfour after Vanek scored Buffalo’s fourth goal early in the second period. Coach Pat Quinn replaced Belfour with Mikael Tellqvist.
Alex Steen, who scored twice, took exception to the booing aimed at his teammate.
“I don’t like that sort of stuff,” he said. “It’s definitely not Ed’s fault that we’ve had these losses.”
The 40-year-old Belfour has had a sub-par season.
“It’s always discouraging when you don’t have things go your way,” said Belfour, who shrugged off the booing. “They are frustrated just like the rest of us.”
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said Belfour looked uncomfortable.
“We mentioned that it looked like he was rattled and that we should get more pucks to the net,” Ruff said.
Buffalo scored four straight goals to take a 4-1 lead, but Toronto cut it to 5-4 by the end of the second.
But Drury’s one-timer gave Buffalo an insurance goal at 6:18 of the third, and Vanek made it 7-4 at 12:47. McKee added an empty-netter with a second left.
“I don’t think they are bad,” Vanek said of the Leafs. “We got a couple of quick goals and hurt them. Then we let them back in the game. But I still think come playoff time they will be battling for a spot.”
Steen gave Toronto a 1-0 lead on the power play at 4:08 of the first, but Hecht’s centering pass went off the skate of Toronto’s Jason Allison and past Belfour at 12:38 of the first. Roy’s floating wrist shot beat Belfour on his blocker side with about two minutes left in the period to make it 2-1.
Campbell scored on the power play with a slap shot about three minutes into the second and Toronto fans booed after Vanek scored an unassisted goal on Belfour about 10 seconds later on Buffalo’s 16th shot.
Steen scored on the power play and Alex Ponikarovsky made it 4-3 at 13:17 of the second with a goal after a scramble in front.
It was the first shorthanded goal by a Toronto defenseman since Tomas Kaberle scored one Oct, 2002 versus Montreal.
Toronto’s Eric Lindros remains sidelined with a torn ligament in his right wrist. He hasn’t played since early December. … Toronto’s Aki Berg didn’t return after hurting his ribs in the second period.