TORONTO - Vesa Toskala was thankful it was only an exhibition game.
The new Toronto Maple Leafs goalie relinquished a soft goal on the first shot he faced in his debut, and the Phoenix Coyotes went on to a 3-2 victory. The Leafs have such high hopes for the former San Jose backup that they gave him a US$8-million, two-year contract extension as soon as they acquired him from the Sharks in July.
This was not the start he envisioned as he began his quest to supplant Andrew Raycroft as Toronto's No. 1 netminder. Not only did he lose his first start in the blue and white, Leafs castoff Mikael Tellqvist got the win.
Danny Carcillo scored twice and Zbynek Michalek supplied the other Phoenix goal.
Tony Salmelainen and Darcy Tucker replied for the Leafs.
It was the first Leafs game in the Air Canada Centre since last April and a "Go Leafs Go" chant was started in the opening minute by a small group in the far upper reaches of the arena. There soon were sighs of disappointment from among the announced crowd of 18,959.
Toskala, wearing 35, blew his first save opportunity when Joel Perrault backhanded a pass towards the crease. Carcillo touched the puck at the side of the net. It looked like a harmless play but the puck slid through Toskala's legs at 3:24. A handful of spectators booed the 30-year-old Finn.
Salmelainen tied it at 4:46 by slapping in a bullet from the circle to the left of Tellqvist.
Salmelainen, a 26-year-old left-winger, scored six goals in 57 NHL games with Chicago last season and the Blackhawks didn't re-sign him. The Leafs picked him up and he'll probably start the season with the AHL's Marlies.
Toskala's troubles weren't over. He misplayed a Radim Vrbata shot. He got lucky - the puck went through his legs but struck the inside of the kneeling goalie's pad and caromed into a corner.
On the second Phoenix goal, Toskala was on his knees again even though the shot was taken from the blue-line. Zbynek's slap shot found the top of the net at 16:24 during a power play. Toskala was screened.
Carcillo made it 3-1 with the only goal of the second period. On a power play, Carcillo had his first shot stopped by was able to get his stick on the rebound and knock it off Toskala's left leg and into the net at 11:43.
Tellqvist got a leg out to stop a Matt Stajan shot on a breakaway later in the period.
Tucker made it 3-2 on a power play at 11:25 of the third when he swung at a flying puck. The Leafs put on a concerted push in the closing minutes but couldn't manage another.
Notes: Toronto is at Boston for a 4 p.m. ET game Saturday . . . The Coyotes improved to 2-1-1 while the Leafs slipped to 1-1-1 . . . Mats Sundin, Jason Blake and Nik Antropov were among players the Leafs didn't dress . . . Phoenix captain Shane Doan did not play . . . Salmelainen, 26, won the Finnish scoring title in 2005-2006. He also had a cup of NHL coffee with Edmonton in 2003-2004. His father, Tommi Salmelainen, was the first Finn drafted by an NHL team, St. Louis back in 1969, but never played a big-league game . . .carcillo, 22, is better known for his willingness to drop the gloves than his scoring prowess. Some peg him as the next Sean Avery - he can be that aggravating and effective. Phoenix acquired the left-winger, who played in the OHL for Sarnia and Mississauga, from Pittsburgh last February, and he's doing everything necessary to earn a spot for the new season . . . The Leafs assigned defencemen Reid Cashman and Phil Oreskovic and forwards Brent Aubin and Alex Foster to the Marlies on Thursday.