We had another goaltending clinic put on at the Air Canda Centre tonight, this time by Carolina Hurricane Cam Ward, who made 38 saves in a 4-2 win after the Leafs outshot his team by a 40-18 margin.
Jonas Gustavsson was decent and probably deserved a better fate tonight. He had no chance on the winning goal, a deflection by Pat Dwyer in close that got past him with less than five minutes left.
The 'Canes have won three in a row and have quietly crept back to within striking distance of the Leafs after getting left in the dust in November and December. Carolina is just four points behind Toronto, with two games in hand.
This is one more devastating loss for the Leafs, who are now eight games below .500 with 23 losses on the year...and that doesn't count the nine OT losses they've accrued.
This was two more points they really needed to have from a team chasing them in the standings and didn't get. Luckily for them, the Edmonton Oilers have been just lousy, winning only one game in their last 12. And that came against...guess who? You got it. Da Leafs.
Tough schedule coming up for Toronto, first up against the surging Philadelphia Flyers and then Friday on a road trip starting with the Washington Capitals. Toronto's won the last two games against the Caps after getting dropped badly in Washington's home opener way back in early October.
I knew that January was shaping up to be a tough month for the Leafs based on their schedule, but with losses to teams behind them in the race, their road out of the NHL's cellar has gotten signficantly tougher.