Shootout comes back to haunt Leafs, again

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO (CP) The shootout came back to haunt the Toronto Maple Leafs one last time in the 2006-07 season.

The Leafs were only 4-7 in shootouts this season, for the second year in a row struggling in the extra session. And the irony of the New York Islanders using the shootout to beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Sunday was lost on no one.

Ive been saying for some time this year, its great for the fans, its hard for managers and coaches, a crushed John Ferguson, the Leafs GM, said Sunday evening. And watching another team control your fate is doubly hard, especially when theres no time to do anything about it.

The Islanders dramatic win on the last day of the regular season knocked Toronto out of the playoffs a day after a riveting win over Montreal at Air Canada Centre kept the Maple Leafs hopes alive.

Ferguson was back at the ACC to watch the Islanders game and found no fault in the Devils for not starting superstar goalie Martin Brodeur.

There was no chance he was going to be in net today and I think we all would have been shocked if he was, said Ferguson. We controlled our destiny, we look to ourselves here. We left it one point short and thats what came back to bite us.

Losing 5-2 on Long Island last Thursday is one of many games the Leafs would like to have back.

Sure, we can look at that one point in a lot of places over 82 games, said Ferguson.

The Isles had a comfortable 2-0 lead in the third period Sunday before New Jersey scored twice, including the tying goal with one second left in regulation, to force overtime and revive Torontos playoff hopes.

Im sure for the fans it was pretty exciting, said Leafs forward Kyle Wellwood, attending Sunday nights Raptors NBA game. When New Jersey scored at the end, it was unbelievable. With 15 seconds left, it looked like the Islanders were going to the clear the puck.

When Jersey scored, we figured things might go our way.

Ferguson fought to control tears during a media scrum in the Leafs dressing room held moments after the Isles victory.

Its going to take a little while to collect my thoughts here, said a visibly emotional Ferguson. Disappointing... A lot of good things happened for us this year. Some great play from a lot of the younger players. But all thats lost on us at this point.

Just how much progress is up for debate. The Leafs finished one point out of the playoffs a year after missing the post-season by two points. They scored 254 goals, the exact same number as last season, and gave up 263, one more than last season. And they picked up one more point in the standings than last year.

But in their defence, the Leafs were hammered by injuries, leading the NHL with 335 man-games lost.

We had some real injuries to deal with, and unfortunately that did slow us up at different times of the year, said Ferguson. And I thought we overcame that pretty well. The players came in and did a very capable job even bordering on outstanding. But we were No. 1 in the league to man games lost to injury in what turned out to be the toughest division in the East and probably in the league to qualify.

Organizations: New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Air Canada Centre New Jersey Devils 3 NHL

Geographic location: TORONTO, New Jersey, Montreal Long Island Jersey

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