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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Leafs go 'brain-dead'

Play like chumps on eve of entering playoffs for first time in nine years

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TORONTO -- It's been nine years since the Maple Leafs have made the playoffs and they're going into the 2013 post-season playing as if they don't belong.

"I was mystified tonight," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said in the aftermath of Saturday night's sluggish 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the regular-season finale for both team.

The Leafs showed a bit of jump to start -- the Habs went without a shot for the first 11 minutes of the game, -- and led 1-0 on a first-period Phil Kessel power-play goal. But they faded fast and Montreal went to the dressing room tied 1-1 and outshooting Toronto 9-6.

There was barely signs of a pulse in a second period that saw Montreal score twice.

"For whatever reason, it was like we went brain-dead," said Carlyle. "Our execution level went way down."

How bad were the Leafs before a season-high crowd of 19,730? They managed one shot in the second period despite having three power plays.

One of those man-advantages saw captain Dion Phaneuf mishandle the puck at the blue-line, a Leafs player fire the puck into the netting above the glass and an icing call.

They might as well have sent a line of Larry, Curly and Moe over the boards. It couldn't have been worse.

Toronto and Montreal could meet in the playoffs. But that wasn't decided Saturday because Boston added to its point total by going to overtime in a loss to Washington, meaning that the Eastern Conference playoff matchup picture won't be complete until Sunday when Boston plays Ottawa in a makeup game.

If Boston wins today, the Leafs play Montreal. A Bruins loss and it's Boston versus Toronto.

Forward Jay McClement said the Leafs had to look after their own house, rather than wonder about their playoff opponent.

"We need to figure out our own game, no matter who we're playing. Because if we play like that tonight, it won't be good enough."

The way Toronto is playing, Boston fans may not regret losing Sunday.

"The idea of (Montreal versus Toronto) is pretty cool," said Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher. "Obviously I'm assuming it would be the most emotional first-round series ever, so that aspect of it is cool. But for us, we don't really care who we're playing. It's about us. It matters what we do and that's all we're talking about. We'll watch the game (Sunday) and find out who we play."

The Leafs (26-17-5) end the season having lost four of their last six, during which they've been outscored 20-15.

Kessel scored his 20th goal of the season for Toronto, notching his 10th goal in as many games.

Lars Eller had a goal and two assists to pace the Canadiens' pre-playoff message to Toronto. Gallagher, Andrei Markov, and Thomas Plekanec also scored for Montreal, which won despite going 0-for-6 on the power play.

The Canadiens (29-14-5) did it without No. 1 goalie Carey Price, who was given the night off in favour of Peter Budaj. Rubbing salt into the wound, Montreal chased Toronto starter James Reimer early in the third period.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2013 B3

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