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Leafs Fall In Opener

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
September 18, 2006

TORONTO (CP) -- Paul Maurice has been all too aware since taking over as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs last May that his biggest challenge is reducing goals against, and he got a painful reminder as the Buffalo Sabres raced to a 4-0 victory in the NHL pre-season opener for both teams Monday night.

Pavel Kubina made his debut in the Blue and White on Monday night.
(Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

New No. 1 goaltender Andrew Raycroft played well enough but the Leafs did't stand a chance because of all the penalties they took.

The Leafs scored 257 times last season under the deposed Pat Quinn. Only 10 of the league's 30 teams scored more goals. The Leafs allowed 270, and only eight clubs were worse than the they were without the puck. So, it was crystal clear what kept them out of the playoffs.

Better checking and more discipline are what they need.

Jiri Novotny, Derek Roy and Daniel Paille scored on power plays in the second period for the Sabres, and Mike Ryan added another power-play goal in the third.

Buffalo outshot Toronto 32-23. Marty Biron got the shutout.

Toronto was 0-for-7 and Buffalo 4-for-11 on power plays.

Summer rust made for a disorganized and scoreless opening period.

Things heated up in the second period when Ben Ondrus fought Chris Thorburn. Ondrus connected with two hard punches and dropped Thorburn to the ice. Ondrus, who got into 22 NHL games with the Leafs last season, is determined to show he can make a permanent move from the AHL Marlies by supplying some of the toughness that was lost when Tie Domi was bought out. Ondrus can play, too.

Novotny opened the scoring on a power play at 8:05 of the second. Raycroft stopped a Thomas Vanek shot with his stick and new Leafs defenceman Hal Gill couldn't keep Novotny from smacking in the rebound.

Roy scored on another Buffalo power play at 14:58. Adam Mair sent a cross-ice pass that Roy slammed into the open side of the net. Raycroft didn't have a chance.

Paille got a puck to roll over Raycroft's right leg pad at 18:08 with Raycroft sitting in the crease after losing his balance during a two-man Buffalo advantage. Mats Sundin knocked down the captain of Canada's 2004 world junior team with a high stick as the play ended. There was no penalty.

Notes: Raycroft is the first regular in the blue and white to wear No. 1 since Damian Rhodes 10 years ago. ... Sabres defenceman Dmitri Kalinin was cut around the left eye by the stick blade of teammate Toni Lydman early in the game and returned after getting stitched. ... Ticket sales totalled 18,851 for the Leafs' first Air Canada Centre appearance since April 18. ... Maurice hadn't coached in an NHL game since being fired by the Carolina Hurricanes in December 2003. ... Toronto begins the regular season at home Oct. 4 against Ottawa. ... The first regular-season Toronto-Buffalo game is Nov. 4 in Buffalo. The Sabres won the season series 5-2-1 last season in finishing 20 points ahead of the Leafs.

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