Habs drop their first road game

Friday, 22.09.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens
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Habs drop their first road game


Mathieu Dandenault battles with Ian White at the Air Canada Centre Friday night.

TORONTO (CP) - John Pohl, who didn't cost the Toronto Maple Leafs as much as a bag of pucks, looks good enough to crack the lineup.

Pohl has a nose for the net, which he showed in slamming in a rebound and putting himself in position for several other scoring chances during a 5-1 pre-season win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.

Darcy Tucker, Mats Sundin, Aleksander Suglobov and Alexei Ponikarovsky supplied Toronto's other goals, while Jonathan Ferland scored for Montreal.

Pohl, a six-foot, 185-pound Minnesotan, led the Leafs' American Hockey League farm team with 75 points (36-39) in only 60 games last season. He scored three times in the seven NHL games he played, and he's got an excellent chance of landing one of the roster openings created by the departures of forwards Jason Allison, Eric Lindros, and Tie Domi.

When he didn't make the Leafs out of training camp last autumn, the 'considerations' were waived. Now, at age 27 and wearing the 21 that Hockey Hall of Famer Borje Salming used to wear, Pohl appears ready for the bigtime.

'Two things,' Pohl replied when asked why he didn't make the NHL grade in the St. Louis organization. 'They were stacked and going for the Stanley Cup (when he was drafted by the Blues 255th overall in 1998) and I just wasn't ready, especially my skating.

'My skating has come along by leaps and bounds since then and that's why I think I'm ready now.'

Toronto outshot Montreal 27-23.

Jean-Sebastien Aubin, intent on winning the backup goaltending job, went all the way and looked sharp. Jann Danis allowed three goals before Jaroslav Halak took over for the Canadiens.

Toronto was 2-for-8 and Montreal 0-for-5 on power plays.

'There's no excuse for us taking that many penalties,' said Michael Ryder. 'It clearly cost us the game.

'We'll have to adjust for (Saturday) and improve on what we did here.'

The two teams play again Saturday night in Montreal.

Toronto quickly went up 2-0.

Aaron Downey was in the penalty box for roughing when Kyle Wellwood slid a nifty cross-crease pass that Tucker slammed into the open side of the net at 0:52, and Guillaume Latendresse was off for holding when Sundin slapped in a high shot from the circle to the left of Danis at 3:06.

Sundin to Wellwood to Tucker - it'll be a standard play on Leafs power plays this season.

Ferland flipped a puck over Aubin, who was on his chest in his crease, at 14:54.

Pohl made it 3-1 at 6:48 of the second period when he tapped in a rebound with Danis on his knees and out of position.

'I've been pretty lucky to play with good players every game since I've been here,' said Pohl. 'You play with good players and go to the net and good things are going to happen.

'It was nice to get the rebound.'

Pohl nearly scored again early in the third but he couldn't lift the puck past a kneeling Halak after putting on a burst of speed to slip around the defence. He nearly poked in a rebound with seven minutes left.

New Leafs coach Paul Maurice coached the Marlies last season so Pohl knows what Maurice wants from him.

'I'm used to the system and the things the coach expects, so I'm comfortable and relaxed out there,' Pohl said.

Suglobov beat Halak on a breakaway at 14:39, and Ponikarovsky slammed in a rebound at 16:34.

Toronto improved to 2-1 in exhibitions.

'Aubin played solid for them,' said Canadiens defenceman Mathieu Dandenault.

Montreal is 0-3 in exhibitions.

'We've had a sluggish start,' said Dandenault. 'We're getting used to new guys ... but the bottom line is that you've still got to work and you've still got to grind.'

Notes: D Staffan Kronwall didn't return after injuring his right ankle when he slid into the boards seven minutes into the game. The Swede played 34 games with the Leafs last season before getting hurt. He finished the year with the AHL Marlies. His latest injury is a setback in his bid to start the new season with the NHL club. Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice says he won't play Saturday and Sunday. ... The Canadiens didn't dress captain Saku Koivu or top defenceman Sheldon Souray. ... Mike Peca was among Leafs who didn't play. ... Pre-game chat: new Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller and Wendel Clark filled each other in on how they spent their summers while standing outside the visitors' dressing room. ... Attendance was 18,980. ... The teams meet again Saturday night in Montreal.