PITTSBURGH -- "The coaching profession doesn't hand you any gifts." That was Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle's response to a question about the continuing injuries to his roster all while he's trying to re-jigger chemistry and find the right line combinations within his first week on the gig.
The Maple Leafs lost for the eighth time in nine games on Tuesday night with a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. And for the second day in a row, missing bodies and mistakes were a storyline.
Cody Franson and Mike Brown each exited the game early in the first period with injuries and the Leafs failed to hold on to a 2-0 second period lead.
"I thought we were better from a defensive standpoint in the critical areas," said Carlyle. "I thought that our work ethic was stronger, but we ran out of bodies."
But while Carlyle saw some positives, despite falling to 1-2 as Leafs head coach, he noted that lack of execution would also defeat work ethic.
"It's the little things that are costing us in these situations and that's my message to them," Carlyle said. "Until we adopt the mentality that we're going to do the little things, we're going to correct all those little things, the work they're putting in, they're not being rewarded for these last two games."
There was no timeline on how long Franson and Brown might be out, and after losing Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong on Tuesday, the missing bodies will need to be filled in with players who can execute.
"We have other players that can step up and they have to step up," said Carl Gunnarsson. "That's the way it is sometimes."
With 15 games remaining, the Leafs sit five points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning are surging at the same time the Leafs are fading. There is no time for mistakes anymore. Carlyle knows that. His players know that. The "little things" have been adding up and as Toronto embarks on a five-game road trip after Saturday's home game against the Philadelphia Flyers, when they return on March 20 against the New York Islanders will anything have changed?
"The mental mistakes are correctable," said Carlyle.
"The mistakes that we made, positional mistakes we made, turnovers at inopportune times, those are the things that we can correct because it's easily correctable."
But is it already too late?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy