Pogge hung out to dry

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson suggested prior to last night's game against the Sabres that his team was a little tired, having played the night before against the Florida Panthers.

They looked tired. Tired of competing.

In fact, rookie goaltender Justin Pogge might consider suing his big-time NHL teammates for a lack of support.

Pogge was called up from the Marlies to start the game, an ugly 5-0 loss to the injury-plagued Sabres at HSBC Arena, and the Leafs abandoned their young goalie -- the second game in a row they have collapsed in front of Pogge.

Pogge last started on Jan. 27 against Minnesota, and while he certainly wasn't the second coming of Georges Vezina against the Wild, giving up six goals on 21 shots, he, once again, had little support.

"I didn't let in six goals this time, so I was pretty happy about that," Pogge said afterwards, somehow managing to retain his sense of humour.

The shell-shocked goalie faced five breakaways and a similar number of odd-man rushes and made a number of excellent saves after the Sabres jumped to a 3-0 lead after 23 minutes of play.

NO ANSWERS

The Leafs didn't have an answer at either end of the ice, and any chance they had of staging a comeback evaporated with a series of lazy penalties in the second period.

Just 48 hours ago, the rebuilding Blue and White were flying pretty high, having won two consecutive games against a couple of decent clubs, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Colorado Avalanche. But back-to-back losses to the Panthers on Tuesday and the Sabres last night have demonstrated yet again that this team lacks skill and consistency.

Still, Pogge was able to put a positive spin on the debacle.

"I think (a game like that) can help, having that kind of talent shooting on you. I gained a lot of experience," he said. "It wasn't too bad out there. It wasn't a bashing."

Pogge could take solace in the fact that his teammates and Wilson rushed to his defence after.

"His last two games we didn't show up for him," defenceman Jeff Finger said. "You don't want to say you feel bad for the kid, but we have to have a better effort for him."

"Thank God for Justin Pogge," Wilson added. "I would have expected our guys to compete a little bit harder in front of him after the last game he played. But this wasn't one of our better efforts, to say the least."

Buffalo sniper Thomas Vanek recorded a hat trick in front of 17,355 delighted fans, increasing his season total to 32 goals, including a bullet that beat Pogge high to the blocker side on a third-period breakaway. It was his fifth career hat trick. Drew Stafford and Tim Connolly had the other goals for the Sabres.

The Leafs are now 1-5-1 on the second game of back-to-backs this season.

The Sabres were without five regulars due to injury -- Jaroslav Spacek (hip), Henrik Tallinder (shoulder), Andrej Sekera (ankle), Maxim Afinogenov (groin) and Jochen Hecht (upper body).

Wilson back-pedaled on his earlier suggestion that his club was tired, adding after the game that fatigue was no excuse.

"We've been in back-to-back situations before. We had a day off on Sunday. Playing back-to-back at this point of the season, we should be able to handle that," he said.

Leafs centre Matt Stajan scored mid-way through the third, but the goal was called back when he was issued a suspect interference penalty on Ales Kotalik. Vanek scored his third goal on the ensuing power play.

---

REPLAY

SLOW START

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson didn't do winger Justin Williams -- one of the few pure goal-scorers in the lineup -- any favours last night. Williams, who has missed the past 14 games after suffering a shoulder injury on Dec.30 against Atlanta, started the game on a line with pluggers Jamal Mayers and Brad May. He was later switched to a line with speed demons Dominic Moore and Jason Blake after the Leafs fell behind 3-0.

INEFFECTIVE

The Leafs didn't get a shot on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller until there was 9:17 remaining in the first period, and managed only five in that period. After two periods, the Sabres had outshot the Leafs 16-6.

HATS OFF

Four of Thomas Vanek's five career three-goal games have been natural hat tricks.

BATTLE CRIES

Everytime the Buffalo faithful began the "Let's Go Buffalo!" chant, the Maple Leafs supporters answered with "Go Leafs Go!"

RETURN TO ACTION

Sabres defenceman Teppo Numminen returned to action after missing six games with a broken jaw.

POINT-GETTERS

Buffalo G A P

Thomas Vanek 3 1 4

Tim Connolly 1 1 2

Drew Stafford 1 1 2

Jason Pominville 0 2 2

Teppo Numminen 0 1 1

Craig Rivet 0 1 1

Clarke MacArthur 0 1 1

Ales Kotalik 0 1 1

Craig Rivet 0 1 1

NEXT UP

Saturday, 7 p.m., at Montreal Canadiens; CBC, AM 640.


Videos

Photos