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New Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala makes a diving save against the Coyotes during preseason action...

New Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala makes a diving save against the Coyotes during preseason action on Thursday. (Sun Media/Greg Henkenhaf)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

If Vesa Toskala wants to look at the glass half full this morning, here is something he can be optimistic about.

At least he made it through more than half a game in his Maple Leafs debut before the inaugural smattering of boos rained down on him from the rafters of the Air Canada Centre last night.

That's something to build on, isn't it?

Billed by some as the saviour between the pipes for the 2007-08 Maple Leafs, Toskala was given the benefit of a doubt when the first opposition shot he faced as a Leaf -- a nifty tip by Daniel Carcillo -- squeezed through his pads and into the net just 3:24 into last night's 3-2 pre-season loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

And the home fans once again refrained from jeering when a seeing-eye point shot from Zbynek Michalek found the short side with less than five minutes left in the opening period.

But the leather-lunged dissidents no longer could bite their tongues when Carcillo chipped a juicy rebound past Toskala at 11:43 of the second, giving the visitors their third goal on just 14 shots.

Toskala got off easy compared to the reception that greeted Eddie Belfour five years ago.

Back on Sept. 17, 2002, Belfour stepped on to the ice at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum for the annual Blue-White intrasquad game and promptly allowed a goal to Josh Holden on the first shot he faced.

With fans still sour that the popular Curtis Joseph had bolted for the Detroit Red Wings that summer, The Eagle was heckled for whiffing on Holden's effort.

Andrew Raycroft, the public's No. 1 scapegoat last season, received similar treatment in '06-07. If Toskala has any questions about the jeers, he need only ask his partner in goal.

"I guess we're all in the same boat," the easy-going Toskala joked afterward.

Truth be told, it is silly and premature for the sushi-nibbling faithful to start panicking about Toskala, especially after the endorsement he received from Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky after the morning skate.

"We faced this guy a lot out when he played in San Jose," Gretzky said. "He's one of the top goalies in the game today."

Toskala, 30, is an unflappable chap and often has been compared to the Calgary Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff. Both Finns have the reputations of being cool under pressure, a much-needed quality for playing in a Canadian market.

"Maybe I tried to do a bit too much after the first period but things got better from there," said Toskala, who settled down and finished the night with 25 saves. "The big games will come in about 10-12 days when the (regular season) starts."

After Scott Clemmensen gets the start in Boston tomorrow, Raycroft and Toskala will split the final four pre-season games. Coach Paul Maurice said he likely will go with the hot hand to start the season.

Toskala, meanwhile, realizes that the spotlight glares much brighter in Toronto than it does in San Jose. He learned that first-hand earlier this week when he saw how many fans in Edmonton were cheering for the Leafs during an exhibition game against the Oilers.

"When we were there with the Sharks, that building would always be quiet when we scored," he recalled.

Life as a Leaf is different, all right.

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THE GOOD

- Tony Salmelainen showed a nice burst of speed and a wicked shot to score a goal in the first period for the Leafs.

- Darcy Tucker was at his chippy best, dropped his gloves once, and revived Toronto's lagging offence when he batted a shot out of midair midway through the third.

- Tomas Kaberle was a steady hand on defence playing more than 17 minutes in the first two periods.

THE BAD

- Steffan Kronwall got his feet all tied up, aiding and abetting the Coyotes on their opening goal, scored by Dan Carcillo.

- The Leafs had a two-man advantage in the first period and failed to apply much pressure. With Leafs 0-for-3 on the power play, Alex Steen hit the post in the third period.

- Matt Stajan was stopped on a breakaway from his own blue line.


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