Cox: Leafs find a new way to lose

So many inventive ways to lose.

That will be part of the inscription on the epitaph of this Maple Leafs season when it ends without a playoff berth, as most certainly will be the case.

Too many men on the ice in the last minute of overtime? Nope, they hadn’t used that one to sabotage themselves yet this season, and so it was applied Thursday night to produce the winning goal by the Tampa Bay Lightning with 9.8 seconds left in OT.

That made the Leafs 3-2 losers, their 35th defeat in 52 outings over the course of a miserable 2009-10 campaign. Afterwards, head coach Ron Wilson offered no excuses and seemed almost resigned to the fact that this group of athletes can dream up new ways to lose faster than he can plug the multiple holes in the Toronto dike.

“We should have been more disciplined. We weren’t, and we lose,” said Wilson through barely disguised clenched teeth.

Wayne Primeau was the culprit on the too many men call, hopping on the ice and corralling the puck before Matt Stajan had departed the ice surface.

That gave the Lightning the most dangerous extra strength advantage in hockey, four skaters on three, and Marty St. Louis soon after ended the night by slapping a puck sitting on edge over the right shoulder of Leaf goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.

As the Bolts celebrated, Gustavsson wheeled around and slammed his goal stick across the post in a burst of anger.

Why so ticked?

The Swedish rookie has experienced many things in his freshman season, from the low of two heart procedures to the high of being named to the Swedish Olympic team, but he has yet to win a game in overtime. Oh-for-eight so far.

“I haven’t had a chance to win yet in OT, and that’s kind of frustrating,” said Gustavsson, who was otherwise excellent with 29 saves.

“Sometimes I think maybe we should get the lucky bounce. But I always want to win, and that’s why I was so frustrated.”

Primeau was back in the lineup for the first time since injuring his knee Jan. 2 against Calgary.–cox-leafs-find-a-new-way-to-lose