Leafs dig their early grave

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

TORONTO -- TORONTO Maple Leaf fans were treated to a classy pregame ceremony honouring six members of Canada's championship world junior team last night at the Air Canada Centre.

But in the time it took spectators to utter the words "gold medallists," the home team found itself in a hole it could never recover from.

With the capacity crowd of 19,487 still buzzing at the sight of the returning Canadian junior heroes, the visiting Buffalo Sabres had built up a 2-0 advantage and would hold on the rest of the evening for a 4-3 win.

Dmitry Kalinin and Chris Drury scored just 39 seconds apart before the game was five minutes young, putting the Leafs behind the eight ball for the remaining 55 minutes.

"It's tough to be down two to any team, but especially these guys with the talent they have," said Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft. "You end up having to open things up a bit and that's playing right into their hands."

While the assembled throng was all warm and fuzzy when it came to the Canadian juniors, it had an entirely different reaction to Raycroft. With Daniel Briere and Ales Kotalik also beating him on this night, Raycroft received the Bronx cheer treatment from the Toronto faithful.

That didn't sit well with forward Matt Stajan, who felt his goalie was undeserving of such negative response.

"That's just stupid," Stajan said. "That's the way Toronto is.

"He's been there all year for us, making a lot of big saves. (Fans) can do whatever they want."

If anything, the injury-depleted Leafs deserve credit for consistently attempting to claw their way back from the early deficit.

But in this ping-pong affair, Toronto could never get any closer than one goal down.

Facing the early deficit, they narrowed it to 2-1 on Carlo Colaiacovo's seeing-eye goal late in the first period. Briere upped Buffalo's margin to 3-1 early in the second, but back came Toronto on Alex Steen's eighth of the season. Kotalik restored Buffalo's two-goal margin late in the period, but Pavel Kubina's first goal as a Leaf at 15:28 of the third brought Toronto to within 4-3.


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