Maple Leafs impress in pre-season opener
Fans getting their first look at the Toronto Maple Leafs under new head coach Ron Wilson must have liked what they saw.
The team was strong on the forecheck in building a lead on Monday night before getting some good goaltending from Justin Pogge during a 7-4 pre-season win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Dominic Moore, with two, Carlo Colaiacovo, Boyd Devereaux, Robbie Earl, Matt Stajan and Jiri Tlusty scored for the Maple Leafs.
Marek Zagrapan, Philip Gogulla, Mark Mancari and Jochen Hecht replied for Buffalo.
Tickets to the exhibition opener were given away for free and there were a lot more Maple Leaf sweaters in the stands at Air Canada Centre than normal as a result.
It was the first time Wilson stood behind the home bench at the arena.
His team is going to be short on star power this year so the coach has vowed to have a hardworking squad.
There were certainly signs of that Monday, particularly in the first half of the game.
After Zagrapan opened the scoring on a power play just 45 seconds in, the Maple Leafs found their stride and dominated much of the period.
Moore tied it at 8:09 after a strong forecheck caused a Sabres turnover and the Leafs centre beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller over the shoulder.
Colaiacovo put the Leafs ahead for good at 18:51 when his shot found its way through a crowd and behind Miller.
Goaltender Curtis Joseph, who returned to Toronto as a free agent over the summer, played the first period and stopped four of the five shots he faced.
Fans chanted his name before the game — his first in a Maple Leafs sweater in more than six years.
Pogge was in net at the start of the second and ended up making 15 saves during the period as Toronto built a 4-1 lead on goals by Devereaux and Earl.
This is an important season for Pogge, who is expected to start with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and will be looking to show he deserves a spot on the big team down the road.
The Sabres applied pressure in the third period but Toronto managed to hang on.
Gogulla, Mancari and Hecht all beat Pogge but Stajan and Moore scored on Jhonas Enroth, who replaced Miller midway through the game, to preserve the win.
Tlusty scored into an empty net with 17 seconds left.