12/3/2006 12:50:20 PM
MONTREAL (CP) - The Toronto Maple Leafs insist they saw enough positive signs in a gut-wrenching shootout loss to the Canadiens to dig themselves out of their funk.
Winless in four (0-3-1) and with only two wins in their last nine games (2-5-2), the Leafs will be hearing it from their uneasy fans as they prepare for a home game against high-flying Atlanta on Tuesday.
''That's fine, that's our deal,'' said coach Paul Maurice. ''We have to react differently (than the fans), we have to prepare and get back to work.
''We're in our tough stretch. We have to get past it, but I like the way we played (Saturday).''
The Leafs deserved a better fate than a 4-3 shootout loss. They outshot the Habs 39-22 and outchanced them.
''Right now, when things aren't going your way, it seems that every mistake you make goes in your net,'' said captain Mats Sundin. ''That's what happened.
''I think we should be proud of how we played. You can't dwell on a loss, especially when you played pretty good hockey.''
The question, however, is: Will the Leafs shake this off in time to get back on the winning track Tuesday?
Coughing up a two-goal lead with less than nine minutes to play in the third period, as Toronto did Saturday, is the kind of thing that can play on players' minds.
''Nothing's rolling easy for us right now, there's no question about that,'' said Maurice.
But he doesn't see the latest loss having lingering impact.
''No, no, the Atlanta loss (5-0 on Thursday) was tougher,'' he said. ''This one hurts more, but the Atlanta loss, you did it to yourself.''
The popular mantra inside the visitors' dressing room at the Bell Centre was that the Leafs have a lot to build on after grabbing a point in Montreal.
''I think so,'' said veteran centre Michael Peca. ''We got back to some simple things that weren't in our game for a while. The result was positive.''
Added Kyle Wellwood: ''We competed well. The other games we didn't compete very well and lost. Against Montreal we had them on the ropes and let it get away.
''They're an excellent hockey team. To outplay them for most of the game like we did, that's a good positive.''