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CF Jones, who had an injured thumb 
By dengdai on Apr 02, 2014 07:57 AM
NEWARK – The Maple Leafs are teetering on the edge of another late season collapse. Five straight losses (and six in the past seven) now dot the schedule – matching their longest skid of the year – after they fell again in New Jersey on Sunday night, topped 3-2 by Cory Schneider and the Devils. Playoff fortunes that once appeared secure have slipped into a more precarious state with a troubling tumble in the past week. All-too-recently fighting for second spot in the Atlantic division, Toronto has fallen to the edge of the playoffs, now in the second wild card position – mere inches ahead of Washington and Columbus – with only nine games to play. “The bottom line,” said head coach Randy Carlyle after the latest loss, “is its a results-orientated sport and we have to find a way to stop the bleeding here and do everything in our power to regroup with this hockey club and get them playing to a higher level.” If not playing entirely badly these days, the Leafs are doing just enough to lose, be it through sluggish starts, highly visible defensive breakdowns, and ordinary goaltending. On this night they fell behind for the seventh straight game, allowed a pair of goals via odd-man rush and breakaway, and had their backup goaltender struggle again to come up with a timely save. “I dont think were playing that bad,” said Phil Kessel, who scored his 36th of the year in defeat, crashing into the goal-post in doing so. “[But] its a tough stretch Ill tell you that much.” Tough stretch, indeed. It was only 11 days earlier, after James Reimer stole victory in Los Angeles, that the Leafs appeared in prime position for their second straight playoff spring. They sat three points up on the Lightning and Canadiens, 10 on the Capitals, nine on the Red Wings, seven on the Flyers, and six on the Rangers and Blue Jackets. Five of the seven has since passed them over, only Columbus and Washington trailing – just barely, mind you, with games in hand. Its been a remarkable spiral in a very short window, different in that way from the infamous 18-wheeler collapse of 2012 which cost Ron Wilson his job. The Leafs couldnt emerge unscathed from that storm, but can they find a way out of this one? Pressure is building, time is ticking, and the race is kicking into high gear with the Blues, Flyers and Wings all on deck in the coming week. Concern was evident as they exited the visitors dressing room, one by one at Prudential Center, keen to the reality of whats at stake. “We lost five in a row here right so its building here,” said Kessel of the pressure. “Obviously we need some wins.” Five Points 1. The Struggle Continues His confidence all but shattered at this point, Reimer was yanked for the sixth time this season. He yielded three goals on 10 shots, his save percentage in relief of the injured Jonathan Bernier dipping to .889 in six appearances. The 26-year-old has not won a start in more than two months (Jan. 21). Of that sunken confidence, Reimer concurred. “Its never high after a loss obviously and getting pulled,” he said. “[But] as crazy as it sounds I know Im becoming a better goalie and obviously a better person.” Ever the optimist, Reimer explained why. “Its been a ton of adversity in many different forms,” he said. “And so when you can weather it and keep your chin up you just get better.” Appearing in just his fifth NHL game, Drew MacIntyre stopped all 14 shots he faced in place of Reimer. Where that leaves the Leafs crease with St. Louis on deck is unclear. Carlyle didnt know if Bernier (groin) would be available for the Tuesday affair. If hes not for the sixth straight game, its not hard to envision MacIntyre getting his first NHL start. 2. Finger Pointing The Leafs have been a poor defensive team all year, requiring fantastic goaltending most nights from Bernier to have success. Theyve not gotten such heroics in relief with Reimer. His days in Toronto soon to be numbered, Reimer could not fend off an odd-man rush late in the opening frame – Morgan Rielly caught up ice, Nazem Kadri stuck on a bad line change – beaten glove-side by Damien Brunner. Faked out by Patrik Elias when he snuck behind the defence on the second Devils goal, Reimer then yielded a late squeaker that ultimately drove the hook from Carlyle. “We havent helped him out one bit,” said Tyler Bozak, charged in his defence of Reimer. “Obviously its easy to pick on the goalie when things are going bad for a team. But its a team game. We win and lose as a team. We havent been playing near well enough to win games. It hasnt been him at all.” “Usually in this type of playoff atmosphere youve got to find a way to knuckle down and play a tighter brand of defensive hockey,” Carlyle said. “We seem to be able to give up those opportunities early and then we seem to tighten up as the game goes on.” 3. Season Gone Wrong Just a night before his first game back in New Jersey as a member of the Leafs, David Clarkson barely saw the ice. He played just eight minutes and 54 seconds in the 4-3 loss to Montreal, his lowest total (save for injury) since Nov. 5, 2010. A season gone wrong has seen no signs of let-up for the 29-year-old, who left the Devils last summer for a seven-year deal with the Leafs worth more than $36 million. From suspension to injuries to suspension to struggles to find a role, Clarkson has had few, if any, positives this season. “The way this years gone I could never imagine it,” said Clarkson, before facing his former team. His four goals and 10 points are matched by Dave Bolland, who missed nearly five months with an ankle injury, and Troy Bodie, who has garnered half the ice-time in 13 fewer games. Barring an unforeseeable late season surge, Clarkson would set career-lows in goals, points and shooting percentage (he missed 21 games) – his previous low for points coming in the 2010-11 season when he posted just 18 in 82 games, including only two on the power-play. And if there is one similarity to that year in Jersey to his first in Toronto its the power-play and his opportunity on it. When Clarkson exploded for 45 goals and 70 points in the two seasons which preceded his signing in Toronto he did so in large part because of the power-play. About a third of his production came that way in fact, the Mimico native totaling 14 power-play goals (31 per cent of the total) and 24 power-play points (34 per cent). His ice-time had not surprisingly sky-rocketed from where it had been previously (up to nearly four minutes per game a year ago). This season, that opportunity has tumbled back downward. Buried behind the more skilled likes of Kessel, van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Kadri, Lupul and Raymond, Clarkson has rarely seen the power-play – about 54 minutes total – and thusly has just two points from it. Combine that with a considerable drop in shot attempts and shooting percentage, far less crash and bang and an unending search for a clear-cut role and the season has simply evolved into a nightmare for the former Devil. He played 10 minutes on this night, stuck without a point for the 22nd time in the past 24 games. 4. Falling Behind When Brunner beat Reimer he gave the Devils a 1-0 lead and handed the Leafs their seventh straight deficit to start a game. They fell behind 2-0 for the fifth time in those seven games when Elias snuck by Rielly at the Toronto blue-line before faking out Reimer on the breakaway goal. Sluggish starts continue to be a problem for the Leafs. “Weve been playing from behind a lot lately and just been running out of time I guess you could say,” said Bozak. “Gotta have better starts and try and get a lead early.” The Leafs are now 8-19-4 when they trail after a period and 11-23-4 when their opponent scores first. Bozak and Kessel scored to slice the 3-0 deficit to one, but like their failed comebacks in each of the previous four losses, it was not enough. “Theres no easy way when youre down three on the road to think that youre going to consistently come back in the hockey game,” said Carlyle. 5. JVR Accountability Speaking after the game, James van Riemsdyk made sure to shoulder some of the blame personally for the Leafs failings. Though he had five shots and multiple opportunities on Schneider in a career-high 26 minutes, van Riemsdyk failed to score for the 10th time in the past 11 games. “Its my job to score goals and obviously right now its not good enough,” he said unprovoked on the subject. “Were not winning games, Im not scoring goals, and Ill have to be better.” Stats-Pack 1-6-0 – Leafs record in their past seven games. 7 – Consecutive games in which the Leafs allowed the first goal. 8-19-4 – Leafs record this season when trailing after the first period. 1 – Goal for James van Riemsdyk in the past 11 games. 10:00 – Ice-time for David Clarkson in his first game back to New Jersey. 26:14 – Ice-time for van Riemsdyk, a career-high. 36 – Goals for Phil Kessel, one off matching a career-high. .889 – Save percentage for James Reimer in place of Jonathan Bernier (six appearances). Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-4 Season: 20.8% (T-3rd) PK: 2-2 Season: 78.7% (28th) Quote of the Night “I think everyones just got to relax a little bit and give him some breathing space because we know James is a great goaltender.” - Nazem Kadri, on recent criticism of James Reimer. Up Next The Leafs return home to face one of the leagues top teams with the Blues visiting the ACC on Tuesday. http://www.nikefreerun3portugal.eu/ .J. -- With the exception of a Super Bowl ring ceremony and a trip to White House, Eli Manning has put his second championship season behind him. http://www.nikefreerun3portugal.eu/Nike-free-run+-3-kj-94.html . It will be the first NHL game ever played in Brooklyn, where the Islanders will move in 2015-16. The Islanders and Devils were slated to play at Barclays Center last preseason, but the entire exhibition schedule was erased due to the NHL lockout. BOSTON -- Even Jonathan Papelbon cant be counted on to save the Red Sox now. And Boston keeps stumbling toward a playoff berth -- or an epic collapse. The Red Sox most dependable player blew his first save in 4 1/2 months when Robert Andinos three-run double in the eighth inning lifted the Baltimore Orioles to a 7-5 win Tuesday night and ruined a chance for Boston to extend its two-game lead in the AL wild-card race. The Red Sox seemed headed for a three-game, wild-card lead over Tampa Bay, which lost to the New York Yankees 5-0 on Tuesday. But their struggles continued as they fell to 4-13 since leading the Rays by nine games on Sept. 3. They havent won consecutive games since sweeping a doubleheader against Oakland on Aug. 27. "My job when Im called on is to go out there and finish the game," Papelbon said. "I didnt do that, so this game is on me and I take full responsibility for that." The closer who had gone 21 games since last allowing a run on July 16 wasnt the only one blaming himself in the quiet Red Sox clubhouse after losing to the team with baseballs third-worst record. Right-fielder Josh Reddick said "it was the worst feeling ever" after his error on a two-out liner by Vladimir Guerrero led to two runs in the third and forced starter Erik Bedard to face four extra batters. "We should have never had that close of a game," Reddick said. "I kind of hurt the whole team from bottom to top." Papelbon said "Theres no reason for us to sit here and say, The walls are crumbling down, start panicking. Thats not going to happen in this clubhouse. Nobodys going to hand us any wins. Weve got to go out there and get it on our own." Boston has seven games remaining and Tampa Bay has nine. "Well take that situation every day" with Papelbon entering with a 5-4 lead, second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "Well come out (Wednesday) and play our butts off. ... Were good. Well be all right. Take a deep breath." Willie Eyre (2-1) got the win and Jim Johnson picked up his eighth save in 13 opportunities. Daniel Bard (2-9) had runners at first and second with one out when he was replaced by Papelbon, who entered with 30 saves in 31 chances. Papelbon, who had 28 strikeouts in the 21 straight scoreless outings, struck out Chris Davis for the second out. Then Nolan Reimold singled to short left field, loading the bases, and Andino doubled down the right-field line for his third hit of the game. "Hes a tough pitcher," Andino said. "We all know who Papelbon is. You just try to get on top of a pitch and just put it in play." But Papelbon was more upset with his 0-2 pitch that Reimold hit to keep the inning alive. "Unaccceptable," he said firmly, his hands on his hips.dddddddddddd Papelbon had his first blown save since May 9, the last time he entered a game before the ninth inning. The Red Sox wrap up a four-game series with the Orioles on Wednesday night before playing their last six on the road, three each against the New York Yankees and Baltimore. "Just the emotion of the games, I think, plays well for us," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "We kind of, more than anything, just have some envy. At some point we want to be in their position." Adrian Gonzalez drove in three runs with a two-run homer and a double for the Red Sox. They went ahead 1-0 in the first on consecutive doubles by Pedroia and Gonzalez. But Baltimore scored four runs in the third when starter Bedard threw 51 pitches and retired just two batters. With one out, Andino singled on a 13-pitch at-bat and scored on Nick Markakis two-out double. Reddick then misjudged Guerreros liner it by taking a few steps in then had it go off his glove as he went back, allowing Markakis to score. After walks to Matt Wieters and Adam Jones loaded the bases, Mark Reynolds hit a two-run double. The Red Sox cut the lead to 4-3 in the third on a double by Pedroia and Gonzalezs 27th homer of the season. They went ahead with two runs in the fourth, helped by an error. With no outs, Marco Scutaro walked, Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled and Mike Aviles singled in the tying run. Jacoby Ellsburys single loaded the bases. After Pedroia struck out, Gonzalez grounded to first baseman Reynolds, who threw home for the force then let the return throw go off his glove. That allowed Gonzalez, who was several feet from the base when the ball got to Reynolds, to reach safely and Aviles to score the tie-breaking run. Notes: Showalter was ejected for arguing a third-strike call against Weiters in the fifth. ... CF Jones, who had an injured thumb, and 1B Reynolds, who was hit in the head by a pitch on Saturday returned to the Orioles lineup. ... Ellsburys single in the fourth was his 200th hit. It came one day after Gonzalez had five hits to reach 203 for the season. Its the third time the Red Sox have had two players with 200 hits in the same season -- Wade Boggs (240) and Bill Buckner (201) in 1985 and Boggs (207) and Jim Rice (200) in 1986. ... Guerrero and Jones were thrown out trying to steal in the fourth by Saltalamacchia. ... Josh Beckett (13-5) pitches for Boston against Tommy Hunter (4-4) on Wednesday night. ... Boston RHP Clay Buchholz reported no problems after throwing a 32-pitch simulated game on Tuesday. He hasnt pitched since June 16 because of a stress fracture in his back and hopes to pitch if the Red Sox reach the playoffs. ' ' '
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