Minny disaster for Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As he put on his sport coat in the confines of the Toronto dressing room after a very forgettable night, Justin Pogge could not hear coach Ron Wilson carving the other Maple Leafs to reporters just down the hall.

Pogge probably couldn't hear much of anything because of the ringing in his ears, courtesy of the Xcel Energy Center horn that blasted six times in the Minnesota Wild's 6-1 victory over the hapless Leafs.

"Screw it. It's over. I'm going to learn from it, go back to the Marlies and work my butt off," said Pogge, who was making just his second NHL start.

Pogge wasn't good. But he had plenty of company.

While Pogge, 23, will return to Toronto to rejoin the farm club today, the remainder of the Leafs won't be as fortunate. They'll have to deal with Mount St. Wilson, who blew his stack at his team's defensive play -- or lack thereof.

Wilson didn't yell. Or stomp his feet. But the criticism of his team, delivered in a calm, collected manner, was nonetheless quite biting.

As one ink-stained wretch commented after the game: "He didn't just throw his team under the bus, he backed it over them too."

While Pogge looked bad on Cal Clutterbuck's bad-angle goal that opened the scoring in the first period, he was hung out to dry in the second when the Wild erupted for four goals in less than 13 minutes.

Wilson was disgusted that many of his players would abandon the young rookie goalie like that. "Obviously the first goal was not very good but then we pulled down his pants," Wilson said, inferring that the way Pogge was often left to fend for himself by his teammates was embarrassing.

"We don't have enough guys who care about each other," Wilson continued. "We have a few guys who should look in the mirror and say: "I'm not trying hard enough in my own end. I'm cheating in order to get easy points."

The Leafs have now lost 12 of their past 15 decisions.

"Right now, it's a garden full of weeds and I've got to pull out some weeds," Wilson said.

For Pogge, his brief NHL career has been a tale of two games.

When the lanky goalie turned in a solid performance in his NHL debut, a 6-2 Maple Leafs victory over the Atlanta Thrashers in Dixie on Dec. 22, the hype surrounding Pogge snowballed back in Toronto.

The future is now for the kid, some claimed. Others pushed for the trading of starter Vesa Toskala in order to make room for him.

There were even suggestions that backup Curtis Joseph should be cast adrift, making room for Pogge on the NHL roster.

Yesterday was a reality check.

"Had he won, you guys would be naming a street after him," Wilson said.

"Our goaltending has not been good this year. This is an opportunity for Justin. He's going to get more opportunities. He's going to be a great NHL goalie."

In time, perhaps.

"I got beat a bunch of times on the glove side," Pogge said. "I was out of position a couple of times and ended up diving head first. That's not my game. I was impatient out there and they took advantage of it.

"In Atlanta, things went my way. This time they didn't. You learn and move on."

With Pogge in net and Toskala backing him up, Joseph did not dress. But if anyone thought he would be whining about the decision, guess again.

"Look, if I were a general manager, I'd want a lineup made up completely of 23-year-old kids," said Joseph, who likely will retire at the end of the season.

"In the summer, they told me if I signed here, I wouldn't play much. That's fine. I knew that. It was worth it to be a Leaf again."


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