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Keefe: I used 'wrong words' to call out top players after loss to Coyotes

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Sheldon Keefe admitted Wednesday that he didn't articulate himself the way he wanted to when discussing his brightest stars after Monday's loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

"I used some of the wrong words to try to describe ... that the difference in the game, I find, is just we weren't able to produce," the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach told the media, including Sportsnet, on Wednesday.

"Whether it's power play or five-on-five, that's really the difference with all the puck time we had. By no means was I meaning anything beyond that, which is what I wanted them to be sure of. As it turned out, they didn't know what I was talking about, which is a good thing, but at the same time (it was) important that they know where I was coming from."

Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner insisted it's all water under the bridge.

"I talked to (Keefe) today, and he explained what he meant to say and how it came out," Marner said. "I'll leave it at that. We have closed doors for a reason. ... So we had that talk today, and we understand. We're grown men."

Keefe said during his press conference after a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes: "Our best people have not found their rhythm," and then he elaborated.

"The difference between us and Arizona is that we have elite players," the head coach said. "And our elite players didn't play like elite players today, they couldn't make a difference. In that sense, the game is going to be close. That's the way it goes when those guys don't make the difference that they can."

Marner scored the tying goal with around seven minutes left before the Coyotes struck twice with under two minutes remaining. William Nylander scored 24 seconds before Marner, and captain John Tavares earned the primary assist on that goal.

However, reigning Hart Trophy winner and Arizona-raised superstar Auston Matthews was held off the scoresheet, and his team's power play went 1-for-5, registering no shots on goal in the first four opportunities.

Keefe has already publicly criticized his team twice this season. The bench boss said the season-opening loss to the Montreal Canadiens was "unacceptable," that his side was "careless" in defeat, and that Toronto's skaters hung goaltender Matt Murray "out to dry."

Toronto is 2-2-0 through its first four games of 2022-23. The Leafs will host the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

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