ST. PAUL, Minn. - Pierre-Marc Bouchard had two goals and an assist and Toronto's defencemen failed young goaltender Justin Pogge in a 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
Called up from the AHL for one start following the all-star break, Pogge made only 15 saves. But he had virtually no chance on all four goals in the second period thanks to sloppy play in front of him, which has plagued Toronto all season long.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, Cal Clutterbuck, Andrew Brunette and Owen Nolan also scored for the Wild, who were last in the NHL in even-strength goals coming into the night. But Minnesota got all six in five-on-five play against the Maple Leafs.
Minnesota native Jason Blake scored for Toronto, which lost for the eighth time in nine games and 12th time in its past 15.
Pogge is considered Toronto's top prospect, and coach Ron Wilson has laid out a plan to get him some spot starts with the big club periodically over the final few months of the regular season to see if he's ready for prime time.
The way his defencemen have been playing this season - Toronto entered the game with the second-most goals-against in the league - he might not be in a rush to come back.
It is probably not a coincidence that one of the games Wilson wanted the 22-year-old to play in was against offensively challenged Minnesota.
The Wild entered the night 24th in the NHL in total goals and had only 62 goals in five-on-five, the fewest in the NHL. But they have been scoring better lately.
In their first 41 games, they averaged 2.4 goals a game. They have averaged 3.8 in their past six.
Three of Minnesota's four second-period goals came in a three-minute burst.
Less than a minute after Blake scored to tie the game 1-1, Bouchard got the puck behind the net and Bergeron walked right in from the blue-line with Toronto's defence asleep to take a feed and beat Pogge through his legs.
Eric Belanger followed with a steal at centre ice and then fired a late crossing pass to Bouchard on a two-on-one for an easy one-timer that beat a sliding Pogge high on the glove side.
Just 45 seconds later, the 37-year-old Nolan won a foot race with defenders Luke Schenn and Ian White to a puck that should have been icing and slipped a backhand pass to Mikko Koivu on yet another odd-man rush. Koivu fed Brunette coming in on the weak side, and he scored on a wide-open net.
Bouchard capped the period with a breakaway goal, dizzying the shell-shocked Pogge with a double-deke before slipping the puck between his legs for a 5-1 lead.
It was Bouchard's first two-goal game since Dec. 1 against Colorado.
Notes: Maple Leafs D Mike Van Ryn played for the first time since Dec. 18. He was out after suffering his second concussion of the season, but was cleared by doctors to play earlier this week. ... Brunette played in his 500th straight game. "As a kid I hated to miss any kind of activity with friends," Brunette said.