But on a night when the division rival Ottawa Senators were laying a 6-2 beating on Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, Tucker did not hesitate to show some flashes of his old self. Tucker took three penalties – including a five-minute fighting major against Ottawa forward Patrick Eaves in the second period that made the Toronto right winger a Senators target the rest of the night.
“Just part of the game,” Tucker said of taking on Eaves, a player who never had previously been in an NHL fight.
Eaves didn’t quite see it the same way.
“I wasn’t thinking about fighting at all,” said Eaves, who had a goal and an assist in the win. “I just had to defend myself and try as best I could.”
Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin said Tucker’s fight with Eaves, which came midway through the second when Toronto was down 5-0, was simply one of many of the team’s attempts to change the momentum of the game.
“I think we all tried (to spark the team),” Sundin said. “Wade Belak had a good fight, our fourth line was banging and crashing. These nights, you can’t really blame a certain guy. All of us were at fault tonight.”
Sens centre Mike Fisher thought Eaves handled himself well against Tucker.
“He’s one of our skilled guys. He doesn’t fight,” Fisher said. “He stood up for himself. You’ve got to give Patty credit.”
After Ottawa (4-4-0) jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one period, the Maple Leafs (4-3-3) out-shot them 18-8 in the second and nearly scored a number of times against a shaky Martin Gerber. But they were unable to capitalize on their chances, especially on the power play, where Toronto couldn’t score on any of their six man advantages.
“Our work habits were not up to par,” Tucker said. “We needed to ramp it up tonight, play with some emotion here at home, and we started that way too late.”
The Leafs have not been able to win more than one game this season without following it up with a loss. That’s something Sundin knows has to change.
“As a team, we haven’t had the consistency and the work ethic and the intensity we need to have every time we play a game,” he said. “It’s a long season, but we definitely have to be more consistent.”