TORONTO – Harder. Dustin Brown Jersey . Better. Faster. Stronger. St. Louis was all that and more for most of a cold March night. They dealt the sliding Leafs their sixth straight loss – seven in the past eight games – and a very loud exit from the current playoff picture. Once on firm ground toward a second straight trip to the postseason, Toronto now sits 10th in the East, trailing Columbus and Detroit for the final two wild card spots with only eight games left to play. Skidding for nearly two weeks without even a single point they are in danger of fumbling away what seemed like a sure thing. Fear of that reality, it seems, is slowly infecting the group. "Well, certainly were afraid of letting it slip away," Joffrey Lupul conceded after a 5-3 loss to the Blues, the Leafs winless since Mar. 13. "The whole year we thought we were a playoff team and we still believe that now." At this moment, however, they are not. And what once seemed unthinkable as recently as two weeks prior when they stormed through California has now become a very real reality. The Leafs may not make the playoffs and they know it. And that fear of fumbling it away is driving the nerves of a flailing group. Head coach Randy Carlyle observed "tenseness" during the first half of Wednesdays game, one that saw St. Louis completely manhandle their sinking opponents, especially so in a dominant first frame. Big, hard, fast and strong, the best team in the West controlled possession of the puck almost without exception, peppering Jonathan Bernier with 23 shots while scoring the first two of four unanswered. "Its like we were frozen for 30 minutes of the hockey game," Carlyle said. "We didnt pick up the puck and skate with it at all. And thats showing signs of being nervous, tense, [lacking] confidence, not wanting to make a mistake which led to more offensive zone time [for the Blues]." Only when the score tilted at 4-1 did they start to push back and in a well-repeated theme, muster the kind of tenaciousness and enthusiasm required for winning at this time of year. Carl Gunnarsson and James van Riemsdyk scored to slice the deficit to one, but like those rallies in each of the previous five losses, the Leafs ultimately ran out of time. Desperation was just a little too late. "Right now it seems like when we get down then were playing with no fear," Lupul said. "Theres something to be said about being down and not having that fear anymore, but realistically weve got to play like that right from the start. Its more of a psychological thing than it is a physical thing for sure." Whether they can overcome that imposing mental hurdle and recover in time to make the playoffs remains an increasingly uncertain question. With stumbling starts, glaring defensive breakdowns, inconsistent offence and poor goaltending, theyve found ways to lose hockey games in rapid order and are feeling the pressure from it. Losing six straight for the first time since the infamous 18-wheeler collapse in 2012, the Leafs now they sit on the outside of the playoff picture with a daunting weekend set ahead against the Flyers and Red Wings. Their fate could be determined in a matter of days. "Theres reason for concern, but its not completely time to panic," Lupul said. "Were still right there. Weve got a game Friday, we play Detroit [on] Saturday, you win those two games and all of a sudden things look a lot different." Five Points: 1. Berniers Back Even Bernier – making his first start since Mar. 13 – couldnt rescue the Leafs from the Blues. And he tried. The 25-year-old was spectacular early on, turning away the first 20 St. Louis shots in a one-sided opening frame. He eventually ceded four goals on 48 shots. It was just his third loss in regulation when facing 40 shots or more (8-3-2). Bernier had missed the previous five games with a groin injury, rushing back to stabilize the Leafs wobbling crease. "Lot of work, but felt okay," he said afterward. Stretching constantly, in between whistles and during TV timeouts, Bernier was seemingly shy of 100 per cent, but surely felt the need to return with his teams chances of reaching the postseason flailing. Asked if he rushed back from the injury, Bernier said, "You always want to be back as soon as possible." "It was a little sore obviously, but I was just trying to get it loose a little bit in between whistles and timeouts." 2/3. Ready to Start? Scoring first didnt help the Leafs much on this night. They scored the first goal for the first time in eight games with Lupul tucking a Nazem Kadri pass beyond Ryan Miller on a power-play, but it was down-hill from there. Already owning possession for much of the period to that point, the Blues tied the proceedings at one when T.J. Oshie squeezed a rebound through the pads of Bernier. They went in front for good on the first of three from David Backes on a power-play, Dion Phaneuf failing to clear the puck adequately. St. Louis had 23 shots for the period, the most Toronto has allowed in any one period this season. "Thats a heck of a hockey team over there," van Riemsdyk said. "The way they play, lines 1-4, [defence] pairings 1-3, theres not much of a falloff. They kept coming. Thats no excuse for us. We have to find a way to get off to a better start." Strong and sturdy, the Blues cycled and cycled and cycled without giving the Leafs even a taste of the puck. "We couldnt break their cycle," Lupul said. "We couldnt get the puck." It was the kind of grinding performance Carlyle would like to see more from his team in Toronto. "They did a lot of things that were trying to convince our hockey club to do as far as hanging onto the puck a little bit more," he said. "We understand were not as big and strong and as physical as some of those teams that are able to do that, but thats more of the style this time of year – if you watch the games – thats whats being played." The Leafs are now 8-20-4 when they trail after the opening period. "Again we played 30 minutes of hockey tonight and showed that we can play, but wheres the 60 minutes?" Carlyle said. "We cannot afford to not start the way weve been starting. We have to have more of an effort or consistent, confident start than weve had in these games." 4. Phaneuf Phaneuf played fewer than 21 minutes and had what may have been his worst game of the season. The Toronto captain was on the ice and largely responsible for three of the first four St. Louis goals, having what Carlyle described as a "rough night". The 28-year-old made his first error late in the first, fumbling away an opportunity to clear the puck on a penalty kill, the Blues regrouping to score the first of three from Backes. Then early in the middle frame Phaneuf lost a puck battle with Alex Steen in the offensive zone. Lagging to get back defensively, he was beaten down the ice by Backes, the Blues captain eluding Bernier for the third St. Louis marker. About 10 minutes after that it was Steen muscling Phaneuf to the ice just outside Berniers crease, shaking free to whistle a backhand just under the bar for a 4-1 lead. Phaneuf was unavailable to media after the game. 5. Six-Game Skid Losing a bunch of close games, prior to Wednesday night, Lupul believed the Leafs had actually played better at points in their slide than in many victories this season. "Absolutely," said Lupul before the loss to St. Louis. "We track scoring chances – our team does – and were out-chancing teams every night. You can look at that and say were doing some things right, but its the time of the year that that doesnt really matter anymore, its all about wins. Youve got to translate that into getting more wins." The 30-year-old observed that the margin for winning and losing at this time of year is "really close". "Its been a topic of discussion in here," he said. "Were generating chances. Were not giving up near as many as we have, but were coming out on the wrong side of the game so that doesnt really matter. "And on the flip side when we were winning games and getting out-chanced we were saying the same thing in here, like come on, what are we doing? But now its the time of the year that it doesnt really matter how you get the job done it just needs to get done." Stats-Pack 1-7-0 – Leafs record in the past eight games. 23 – Shots allowed by the Leafs in the opening period Wednesday, the most of any period this season. 8 – Fights for David Clarkson this season. Pointless now in 23 of the past 25 games, Clarkson fought Brendan Morrow in the second period. 7-23 – Tyler Bozak in the faceoff circle against the Blues, hammered by the combination of Steen and Vladimir Sobotka. 1 – Six-game losing streak for the Leafs this season. 2 – Goals for James van Riemsdyk in the past 12 games, van Riemsdyk notching his 28th this season in defeat. Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-3Season: 21% (3rd) PK: 2-3Season: 78.5% (28th) Quote of the Night "Theres reason for concern, but its not completely time to panic." -Joffrey Lupul, following the Leafs sixth consecutive loss. Up Next The Leafs travel to Philadelphia on Friday to meet the Flyers before hosting the Red Wings at home on Saturday. Drew Doughty Jersey . A broadcast source said the deal is for five years. The agreement calls for a minimum of 17 regular-season games as well as the East and West Division finals being broadcast annually on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNEWS. Andy Andreoff Jersey . The game was the first of two international friendlies that Canada is playing during the international break, with the second game against Slovenia set for Tuesday in Celje. Canada looked uncomfortable defensively throughout the game, and every free kick that came into Canadas penalty box looked like ending up in the back of the net. http://www.nhlkingsauthority.com/ . Off-Season Game Plan looks at what the Blue Jackets may do to build upon last seasons success to return to the playoffs again next year.CALGARY -- Mikael Backlund scored twice, including the winner, as the Calgary Flames edged the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in overtime on Saturday. Backlund took the puck to the net and sent a pass to Sean Monahan, whos shot was stopped by Wild netminder Darcy Kuemper. The puck, however, bounced into the air and Backlund batted it down and past Kuemper at 2:25 of extra time. Its Calgarys fifth straight victory and also completes a perfect 5-0-0 homestand. The last time the Flames swept a homestand of that length was in 1997 - Jarome Iginlas rookie season. TJ Galiardi, with his first goal in 38 games, and Dennis Wideman also scored for Calgary (21-27-7), which last won five games in a row in March 2012. Mark Giordano had two assists to extend his career-high point streak to nine games, which includes four goals and six assists. Matt Cooke, Dany Heatley and Keith Ballard scored for Minnesota (29-21-7). Trailing 3-1 halfway through the third period, the Wild drew to within one on Dany Heatleys power-play goal at 10:31. Ballard then silenced the Scotiabank Saddledome sell-out crowd of 19,289 with the tying goal at 15:55. On a Minnesota rush, Ballard got caught up with Wideman as he drove the net. With Wideman tangled up with goaltender Reto Berra, Ballard backed away just in time to one-time a centring pass from Kyle Brodziak into the top corner. It was back on Oct. 4 in the Flames second game of the season in Columbus when Galiardi, acquired in an off-season trade with San Jose, scored his first goal as a Flame. Little did the Calgary native know at the time it would take nearly four months for him to score again. However, he did make it a beauty when he finally ended the drought at 12:36 of the first period to give the Flames a 1-0 lead. After getting a pass from Kevin Westgarth, Galiardi spun and quickly sent a backhand into the top corner. Immediately, the 25-year-old loooked skywards in a show of both relief and shock that he finally scored. Austin Wagner Jersey. That lead would hold up until 14:03 of the second period when Cooke tied it for the Wild while shorthanded. Cooke burst down the left wing and from just inside the top of the face-off circle blasted a slapshot over the shoulder of Berra. Berra did not start the game for the Flames. He entered with 2:28 left in the first period when Karri Ramo left with a lower-body injury. The Flames regained the lead with 1:36 left in the second on a nifty deflection from Wideman. Shortly after failing to score on a power play, Chris Butler fired a shot from the blue-line that Wideman redirected thigh-high from the high slot and past Kuemper. Calgary surged in front 3-1 one minute into the third period when Backlund finished off a three-on-one for the Flames. The shorthanded goal was the third of the season for Backlund, moving him into a tie for second in the NHL behind Bostons Brad Marchand. While most of the season has seen Calgary equally divide up the starts between Ramo and Berra, Ramo (11-10-4) had been the better of the two in recent weeks and had been getting the majority of the playing time with Saturday being his sixth start in the last seven contests. Berra had 14 saves to improve to 7-14-2. He has yet to win in regulation, with four shootout victories and Saturday being his third overtime win. Kuemper made his 10th straight start in net for the Wild. He had 28 saves to fall to 6-4-1. Notes: The Flames final three games before the Olympic break will be on the road beginning in Montreal on Tuesday... Minnesota plays twice at home before its break begins... The Flames have eight shorthanded goals, which is second in the NHL behind Carolina (9)... Flames D Kris Russell (upper body) did not play. Taking his spot was Chris Breen, who played for the first time since being recalled from Abbotsford (AHL) on Jan. 26. 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