When the Toronto Maple Leafs season began, the battle for the number one spot in the crease was expected to involve incumbent Vesa Toskala and Swedish import Jonas Gustavsson.
But on Tuesday, Joey MacDonald took hold of the team’s goaltending reigns against the streaking Colorado Avalanche, attempting to halt the Leafs slow start and giving head coach Ron Wilson a reason to consider the journeyman as a solution in net, rather than a stopgap.
Neither ended up occurring as the Leafs [0-5-1] dropped their sixth straight game in a 4-1 loss to the Avalanche [4-1-1] at the Air Canada Centre.
Despite making 24 saves, the former New York Islanders goaltender performed decently at best, allowing two questionable goals in the opening period to put the Leafs down 2-0 and into catch-up mode once again.
Avalanche defenceman Brett Clark got the game’s opening goal on the power play at 11:43, as his shot from the top of the point beat the Leafs goaltender.
And with just nine seconds left in the first, David Jones managed to beat MacDonald on the left side of the net, as the Nova Scotia native backtracked too far in his own crease.
In the second period, with the Avalanche on another power-play after Mike Komisarek was assessed an elbowing penalty, MacDonald gave up a rebound on a Marek Svatos shot and former Leaf Darcy Tucker got his right skate on the puck and put it in at 5:58 for a 3-1 Avalanche lead.
Colorado made it 4-1 at 9:36 when a John-Michael Liles pass attempt towards the Leaf net hit Komisarek in the head and ended up beating the Leafs goaltender.
While MacDonald may be criticized for his performance, Toronto has allowed the first goal in every one of their games and coming into tonight’s contest, ranked second last in the league in penalty killing at 57.9 per cent.
So far, the Leafs have allowed 10 power-play goals this season, a major reason why Toronto is last in the league in goals against [4.67 per game].
With Gustavsson placed on injured reserve last week with a groin injury and Toskala expected to be out 10-14 days with a knee injury, the Leafs have recalled James Reimer from the Marlies to fill the backup role.
Now Toronto is faced with a situation neither Wilson nor general manager Brian Burke envisioned when the season started.
MacDonald and Reimer, both of whom began their years with the Marlies of the AHL, are now the main men in net for the big club and will play a part in how the Leafs’ season unfolds.