Toronto-Buffalo: Listless Leafs Lose In Buffalo, Vanek Nets Three

Dino MoriAnalyst IFebruary 4, 2009

A tired, disinterested Toronto team were no match for a rested, highly-skilled Buffalo squad at the HSBC Arena on Wednesday

Justin Pogge, making his third NHL start in goal for the Leafs, was bombarded by Buffalo shooters for most of the night, as the Sabres shutout the Leafs, 5-0.

His counterpart in the Sabres net, Ryan Miller, enjoyed an easy night between the pipes.  He faced only 16 shots to record his fifth shutout of the season. Pogge faced 32 Sabre shots, most of the difficult variety.

Tomas Vanek tallied the natural hat-trick to spearhead the Sabres attack.  Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford also scored for Buffalo.

Connolly put the Sabres up 1-0, tipping a Craig Rivet shot into a gaping net after Justin Pogge came out to cut down the angle on the point shot. 

The Sabres speed in transition was evident in the opening twenty minutes.

Rivet took a Dominic Moore shot off his ankle and limped to the Buffalo bench.  Several minutes later, the former Montreal Canadien defenseman returned after getting repairs in the Sabres dressing room.

Stafford made it 2-0 for the Sabres when he undressed Leafs defenseman Mike Van Ryn before lifting the puck over Pogge during a four-on-four situation. It was a highlight-reel goal, to say the least, for the stick-wielding Sabre.

The Leafs were listless in the first period, likely feeling the effects of playing on back-to-back nights.  On Tuesday, the Leafs blew a 3-1 third period lead against the Florida Panthers and lost, 4-3,  in overtime on a goal by Bryan McCabe.

The Sabres out-shot the Leafs in the first period, 12-5, and fully deserved their two-goal advantage.

The Leafs continued their parade to the penalty box in the second period, and it finally cost them.

With Niklas Kulemin off for hooking, Tomas Vanek reached the thirty goal mark to put the Sabres ahead 3-0.  On the night, he raised his season total to 32, moving him into a second place tie in the NHL, trailing only Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, who leads with 36. 

Toronto coach Ron Wilson was seething on the Leafs bench at the mid-point of the hockey game, slamming his first against the visitors glass.  He was not a happy camper watching his team gave up consecutive odd-man rushes.

Pogge made a terrific save on Ales Kotalik on a Sabres 3-on-1, as the Sabres had seven odd-man rushes compared to just one by the Leafs through two periods. He was the best Leaf by a mile last night, erasing the so-so effort he had eight days ago in Minnesota.  On that evening, Pogge gave up six goals to the Wild.

Through two periods, the Leafs had taken eight minor penalties and were being out-shot by a wide margin, 24-9.

Sabres forward Jason Pominville was foiled on a breakaway by Pogge in the opening minutes of the third to keep the Leafs deficit at three.  Pominville is mired these days in a long scoring drought, goalless in his past 12 outings.

Vanek scored his second of the night, converting a breakaway pass from Stafford less than six minutes into the third. He completed his natural hat-trick on the power play at 9:13.  Buffalo had two power play goals on the night.

The Sabres line of Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta-Clark MacArthur drew five minor penalties against the Leafs, a stat not lost on Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, who sent out the trio each time to begin the period.

The Leafs travel to Montreal to play the Canadiens on Saturday. Should the Leafs put forth the same effort they did here in Buffalo tonight, there may be some players watching from the press box in the foreseeable future.