Leafs' scoring derby

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

ATLANTA -- There was a lot more bad defence than bad blood on the ice last night at Philips Arena.

At least on the part of the host Atlanta Thrashers.

The previous time these two sides met, Nov.25 at the Air Canada Centre, the lowly Thrashers punched out a 6-3 victory for head coach and Toronto boy John Anderson, who was making his debut at the ACC as a NHL head coach. In that game, some unpleasantness materialized, mostly between Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk and Maple Leafs defenceman Ian White, who suggested prior to last night's game that he was not going to cut Kovalchuk any slack in the teams' second meeting.

What a difference a game makes. Kovalchuk, one of the most-skilled players in the NHL, was not a force in any way last night.

The Leafs, meanwhile, demonstrated a tremendous amount of energy, not to mention excellent offensive cohesion and team speed, to dominate the Thrashers en route to a 6-2 victory and award rookie goaltender Justin Pogge with the win in his first NHL game.

Pogge wasn't tested often, but he was steady and made a spectacular toe save on Thrashers centre Todd White midway through the second period with the Leafs holding on to a 3-1 lead. White came back to score in the third on Leafs' defensive breakdown .

"I thought we played really well in front of him but nonetheless he made three or four saves that could have created some momentum for them, and you can see what a difference it is to have a big goalie in there," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of his rookie goaltender. "The extra couple of inches helped him on a few situations where he didn't see the puck. When he's in a butterfly all he has to do is move three or four inches and he has got post-to-post coverage."

The 6-foot-3 Pogge made 19 saves as Toronto outshot Atlanta 38-21.

"I was pretty nervous before they dropped the puck but as soon as they dropped the puck it was just like any other game," the 22-year-old goaltender said. "The guys were letting me see the pucks and letting guys know about it when they crashed the net. I love that."

Pogge plans to give the game puck to his mom Annete, who raised him as a single parent growing up in Western Canada.

The win was the Leafs' fifth in their past six games and second in a row. They have exploded for 18 goals in their past three games -- all on the road.

"I've got a better handle of the energy needs of this team," Wilson said. "They're conditioning keeps on improving a little bit and I know a little better now how to push the guys in practice and when to let off."

Nik Antropov extended his scoring streak to four games with three assists, giving him nine points in the past four games. His linemates also continue to flourish. Alexei Ponikarovsky had a goal and two assists and Matt Stajan two goals and an assist.

Jeremy Williams contributed a goal and two assists, Dominic Moore had a goal and an assist, and Niklas Hagman also scored. Colby Armstrong scored the other Atlanta goal.

"It's nice to see my line going," Antropov said. "But I said at the beginning of the year it's not just one line that will carry the team. We're rolling all four lines and it's nice to see everybody contributing."

Williams now has scored in five of the six games he has played since being called up from the Marlies.

"Going into Christmas at least .500 is a reasonable accomplishment," Wilson said. "I think our team is starting to feel good about themselves."

Last night's game ended a three-game trip, although the Leafs won't get any time to rest, as they play host to the Dallas Stars tonight at the ACC.


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