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Well, it was certainly Brian Burke hockey.

A few big hits, a fight and even a bizarre triple minor for roughing -- all in the first five minutes. Trouble was, the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the wrong end of most of it, with four Leafs getting to know one another better in the penalty box at one point.

The most undisciplined 20 minutes Toronto has played this season led to an early 2-0 hole, which ultimately became a 3-1 loss on Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres, a team the Leafs continue to find new ways to lose to every year.

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The only saving grace for Toronto was the fact netminder Jonas Gustavsson got in front of as many pucks as he did, making several spectacular saves as his team was heavily out shot in the early going.

"If it wouldn't have been for Monster, it would've been 5-0 for them [after one]" winger Freddy Sjostrom said of his goalie.

Sabres checker Paul Gaustad kicked it all off with the first hit of note, dumping Phil Kessel and giving Toronto's feeble power play the first of six wholly wasted opportunities. Patrick Kaleta then laid a similar hit on Nikolai Kulemin which went unpenalized, prompting Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn to drop his mitts and offer Kaleta a few fists.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson then put Colton Orr over the boards to add to the fun, and Toronto's resident goon somehow piled up three roughing minors at once in attempting to pummel Gaustad for his hit on Kessel.

Monster mashed

Terrific to date in taking on the No. 1 role, Gustavsson put in a heroic effort in his fourth consecutive start but was abandoned by his teammates, especially in a first period that saw the Leafs out shot 16-5.

Both of Buffalo's goals came from near the point on the power play and with traffic in front, as Toronto's penalty killers continued to take a timid approach. (It didn't help that Schenn was in the box.)

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Doing the honours were defenceman Jordan Leopold -- off to a terrific start with 15 points to put him in the top 10 in blueliners on offence -- and sniper Tomas Vanek, who found the short side on a seeing eye shot to make it 2-0 on an early 5-on-3.

Kaleta then put the nail in the coffin in the third, whacking a rebound past Gustavsson after a shorthanded 2-on-1.

Miller's time

Back in action after two games out of the lineup with nagging groin, hip and knee issues, Sabres netminder Ryan Miller's dominance against the Leafs continued. Rarely tested, even with his team down a man six times, he made a few key stops, including a second period breakaway by Kessel to maintain a two-goal lead.

Kessel eventually ended his shutout bid with three minutes to play.

Miller improved to 23-8-0 in his career against Toronto, with an incredible .931 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average.

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"He thinks the game, he knows the other teams pretty well, knows their tendencies, studies the shooters," Wilson said of Miller, who he coached at the Olympics with Team USA. "So every goal you score on him you've had to earn it."

Parting shot

Wilson's nightly press box carousel has had a whole host of healthy bodies in it this season, with defenceman Brett Lebda and youngster Luca Caputi (who played all of six minutes on Friday) often on popcorn-eating duty of late.

What boggles one's mind, however, is that Orr has yet to sit out a single game as a Leaf, even after several boneheaded penalties this season and a tendency around the league to make enforcers healthy scratches when the match-up dictates it.

On a team so starved for goals, one would think having a player with at least a little offensive upside in the lineup, like Caputi, would be more beneficial than dressing the one-dimensional Orr every game.

After 103 consecutive games, it's time he takes a seat, even if only to send a message that Friday's funny business isn't tolerated.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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