The Leafs were entering tonight’s game after an impressive 7-4 comeback victory over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night. Once again, Sheldon Keefe elected to go with 11 forwards and seven defencemen in this one. Goaltender Matt Murray was also back between the blue and white pipes for this one. There wasn’t much flow to start the game, as both teams were rather sloppy through the first five minutes of play. The best chance of the game so far for the blue and white came eight minutes into the opening frame as Mitch Marner floated a pass through to Auston Matthews, who made a great move to get a couple of scoring chances. Full credit to Craig Anderson, the oldest guy in the NHL, who shut the door to keep it a 0-0 game. The Sabres didn’t generate their first shot on goal till the 9:13 mark. The Leafs began to up their tempo as the Bunting, Tavares, and Nylander line hemmed the Sabres in their own zone, and they generated more momentum as well as a couple more scoring chances. Marner worked his magic in the offensive zone to create space, and then he found a wide-open Auston Matthews for a one-timer, but the dangerous duo were unable to strike with the opportunity. The first power play of the game went the way of the Leafs as Kyle Okposo high-sticked Mitch Marner with 2:48 remaining in the opening frame. The blue and white could not capitalize on the man advantage, but they did generate three shots on goal. The first period would come to a close with the score 0-0 and the Leafs holding a 12-3 advantage in shots. TOI leader for the blue and white was Mitch Marner with 8:02.
The Leafs didn’t waste much time to open the scoring in the second period. Mitch Marner made a great move to find Alex Kerfoot, who made a soccer kick to find Auston Matthews, who made no mistake with his 31st of the year at 1:11. Calle Jarnkrok added to the lead at 4:13 as he entered the zone with Auston Matthews. Still, he elected to shoot it himself, and it proved to be the right choice as he ripped home his 15th of the year to make it 2-0. The Sabres earned their first powerplay of the game 7:10 into the middle frame as Alex Kerfoot was called for tripping Tage Thompson. The Leafs penalty killers did a fantastic job killing off the man advantage to maintain their 2-0 lead. The Sabres generated their best consecutive shifts after the power play expired as they hemmed the Leafs in their own zone for quite some time. Justin Holl, in particular, was caught out on the ice for 2:10. At 12:52, Mark Giordano was called for Jordan Greenway. The Sabres could not strike with the man advantage, but seconds after, Jack Quinn cut the lead to 2-1 with his 13th goal of the year. Bryson, with a blatant high stick on Noel Acciari in the final 30 seconds of the period, went uncalled. The Sabres dominated the Leafs in the middle frame as they outshot them 17-3. As a result, they had a 20-15 advantage overall as well. TOI leader for the blue and white after 40 minutes was William Nylander with 13:57.
The Sabres picked up right where they left off in the second period as the duo of Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch went to work, and they combined to tie the game at 3:39. In saying that, the Leafs outshot the Sabres 6-1 in the first five minutes of the third period. Unfortunately for the Leafs, the one shot by the Sabres was the one that tied the game. The best scoring chance through the first eight minutes of the third period came off the stick of Erik Gustafsson as the Sabres allowed him to walk right in. Once again, Anderson was there to shut the door. Tage Thompson stole the puck from Noel Acciari, and he was away to the races. He got in all alone, but Matt Murray came up with a massive save to keep it a 2-2 game. Next shift, the Sabres continued the pressure, and Dylan Cozens scored his 26th of the year to give the Sabres their first lead of the game. At 10:07, William Nylander was called for high-sticking Zemgus Girgensons. This time, the top unit for the Sabres made no mistake as Alex Tuch scored his second of the game to give the Sabres a 4-2 lead with 8:41 remaining in regulation. William Nylander was held on to by Rasmus Dahlin, but that didn’t stop him from rifling his 35th of the year right under the bar with 1:01 to go in regulation. Unfortunately, it was too little too late for the blue and white, and they fell to the Sabres by a final score of 4-3. Shots on goal in the third period were 13-9 in favor of the Leafs, while the Sabres held a 29-28 edge overall. TOI leader for the Leafs in this one was Auston Matthews with 23:20.
Tonight’s Three Stars
1st Star: Alex Tuch – 2 Goals
2nd Star: Dylan Cozens – 1 Goal, 1 Assist
3rd Star: Auston Matthews – 1 Goal, 2 Assists
The Leafs return to action on Wednesday as they host the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Colorado Avalanche!
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