Pogge proving his worth

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

EDMONTON -- The Maple Leafs' goaltending insurance policy appreciated in value last night without Vesa Toskala even putting on his pads.

Justin Pogge, Canada's best junior stopper before a rocky 2006-07 on the farm with the Marlies, had a confidence-building 24-save performance last night at Rexall Place, the best Leaf in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers that kicked off the club's exhibition schedule.

Pogge, who has appeared only in rookie-camp games for Toronto until now, still is pegged for the Marlies this season, while Toskala and Andrew Raycroft duel it out. But Pogge fronted six penalty kills last night and was slick in his puck-handling.

"Pretty cool," Pogge said in summing up his first night in the big time. "(Monday) was busy (a team golf tourney in Toronto and a four-hour flight), but I finally got some jump in my legs."

The first two Oilers goals by Slava Trukhno and Shawn Horcoff came off strange bounces from Leaf teammates, the third from a clearing miscue.

"More the defence's fault than his," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "Certain guys will take longer to get going and we've had just three days of practice."

The Leafs were 2-for-11 on the power play.

The most anticipation for those grading for the Leafs was how the first line of Kyle Wellwood and wingers Alexei Ponikarovsky and Darcy Tucker would fare. Wellwood was a step ahead of his mates, especially Ponikarovsky, who was taken off Mats Sundin's line in camp for Jason Blake. But Tucker sprung Ponikarovsky for a first-period breakaway goal. The latter returned the favour, but Oilers starter Mathieu Garon made a huge pad save.

Bryan McCabe put the Leafs up briefly in the third on an assist from 2006 first-rounder Jiri Tlusty before Horcoff tied it. Simon Gamache, the 5-foot-8 long-shot forward, started and finished strong.

The Leafs had the Oilers down to 16 skaters early in the game after Wade Belak rocked Anson Carter into the boards with a clean hit and Bryan Muir's stick cut defenceman Mathieu Roy. Carter, here on a tryout contract, suffered a concussion.

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LEAFS LAST NIGHT

The good:

- Simon Gamache won two power-play draws in the last minute of regulation.

- LW Alexei Ponikarovsky stayed focused after a few early flubs with new centre Kyle Wellwood and buried Darcy Tucker's breakaway pass.

- Wellwood won six of his first seven draws.

- Wade Belak, in a rare power-play role, almost scored his first goal since 2003-04. Belak and his fourth-line teammates Ben Ondrus and Kris Newbury gave the Oilers fits.

The bad:

- D Bryan Muir was beaten at the blueline, leading to a double minor for high sticking later in the shift.

- Tony Salmelainen and Jeremy Williams, two forwards trying to crack the main roster, couldn't finish off their chances.

- Tomas Kaberle, usually a model citizen, took two minors and was charged with three giveaways in the first two periods.


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