SPORTS

Horachek feels struggling Maple Leafs must adopt playoff approach

02/04/2015 03:12 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - No one's more surprised by the Toronto Maple Leafs' losing ways than interim head coach Peter Horachek.

Toronto dropped a 4-3 road decision to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, its 10th straight loss. That ties the club record established in 1967, which ironically was also the last time the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.

But that's of little solace to Horachek, just 1-10-1 since replacing the fired Randy Carlyle on Jan. 7.

"I don't know if shocked or surprised is the right word," Horachek told reporters Wednesday. "I really haven't seen this before but that doesn't mean we can't keep going.

"Bowing your head or putting your lip out or feeling sorry for yourself has no success rate, zero. We have to push ourselves, push our approach to how we want to do things (and) continue to try to make a difference."

Toronto (22-26-4, 48 points) is 13th in the Eastern Conference standings, 13 points behind eighth-place Boston (27-16-7), which plays New York Rangers on Wednesday night. The Maple Leafs were in a playoff spot when Carlyle was fired and their last victory was a 5-2 home decision over Columbus on Jan. 9.

Toronto led Nashville (33-11-6, 72 points) 3-2 in the third and after falling behind had two glorious chances to tie the game while short handed. First, forward Daniel Winnik hit the post at 16:52 then seconds later Predators goalie Carter Hutton made a diving swipe with his stick to swat away a Morgan Rielly shot that hit Winnik in front.

All of which left Horachek wondering what he has done to upset the hockey gods.

"Well, I did actually say that to myself," Horachek said. "I said, 'I must've done something wrong because we had some opportunities which would've separated that.

"Normally those things are going to go in. We did a lot of things that allowed more pucks to the net, more people to the net and allowed us to get opportunities. We still need results . . . our game right now has to get better."

Goaltender Jonathan Bernier left late in the second prior after being cut making a breakaway save against Nashville's Matt Cullen. He returned in the third after requiring 12 stitches and Horachek said the veteran goaltender is fine and would've practised Wednesday if the Leafs were on the ice.

Goals have been hard to come by for Toronto, which has scored just 10 times over its last 10 games. Four times the Leafs have been shut out over that span.

Toronto's top line of centre Tyler Bozak and wingers Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk has scored 55 goals but is also a combined minus-44. Role players Mike Santorelli (10 goals, 18 assists) and Winnik (four goals, 16 assists) have been the Leafs' most consistent performers of late.

Defenceman Stephane Robidas returned to Toronto's lineup Tuesday night after missing time with an upper-body injury. He said the mounting losses are definitely tough to accept but added sometimes there's a silver lining to losing streaks.

"It's one of those where it's not easy, but I think it can make a team stronger at the same time," he said during a conference call. "We're in one of those slumps where (a) bounce doesn't seem to go our way.

"We've just got to stick to it and eventually things are going to go our way. We've got to believe that, we've got to believe we can do it and we've got to believe we can come out of that."

Toronto returns to action Friday night visiting the New Jersey Devils and Horachek feels there are some positives his club can draw from its loss in Nashville.

"With 13 minutes left we had a lead, we have to be able to bear down in those situations," he said. "We have to find ways to get ourselves into it and stay into it and have the commitment level."

— With files from Canadian Press reporter Stephen Whyno.

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