Sabres-Leafs: Justin Pogge Booed in Home Debut

Dino MoriAnalyst IFebruary 18, 2009

It was déjà vu for the visiting Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Center Tuesday.

For the second time in as many trips to Toronto, the Sabres shot out to an early lead en route to a 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs.

Back on New Year's Day, Buffalo tallied three times during a 4:31 span in the second period to break open a scoreless draw and went on to beat Toronto by the identical 4-1 score.

It wasn't the home debut rookie Maple Leafs netminder Justin Pogge had in mind. The 22-year-old was making his first start in front of the home crowd, and things turned ugly after he allowed three goals on just eight first period shots.

The unforgiving ACC crowd gave Pogge a derisive cheer late in the period after he turned aside a 70-foot shot from outside the blue line. To his credit, Pogge regained his composure during the intermission and had a solid second period, stopping all 13 shots.

Toronto scored the lone goal in the middle stanza, as Pavel Kubina converted a goal-mouth pass from Jason Blake on a Leafs power play to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Unfortunately for Leafs fans, that was as close as they would get, as Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller shut the door the rest of the way. 

Miller made 27 saves to earn his 28th win of the season. Pogge, meanwhile, turned aside 26 Sabres shots, losing his third consecutive outing.

Before the game, Leafs GM Brian Burke had some less than glowing things to say about his rookie goaltender. He told a Toronto radio station that Pogge hasn't really earned the call-up to the Maple Leafs, but that the organization is "force feeding this kid to the NHL."

Pogge agreed with this assessment, stating that if the Leafs were in a playoff race, a young goalie wouldn't be getting this kind of opportunity. He added that he is fortunate to be given this shot.

This win marks the Sabres' fifth consecutive road victory in Toronto.  It also was the second straight time they beat Pogge. Back on Feb. 4, Buffalo beat the Maple Leafs at home, 5-0, in Pogge's third NHL outing.

Drew Stafford had a pair of goals for Buffalo, while Daniel Paille and Matt Ellis contributed single tallies.

Toronto hosts Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.