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Postgame: Stomping the Buffalo Sabres

The Leafs traveled to Buffalo tonight for a division rivalry game against the Sabres. After a really long winning streak where Buffalo won 10 straight, they’ve lost their last 3 games (one in OT), slowing their roll a bit.

Tonight, the Leafs were looking to help keep that losing streak going just as long as their winning streak once was.

The Leafs, conversely, are on a winning streak of their own, having won their last 5 games.

William Nylander unfortunately did not make his season debut tonight, so after the departure of Josh Leivo, Frederik Gauthier got back into the lineup tonight.

1st period

The first period was devoid of much offense for Toronto. Despite the massive advantage in fan presence, there was no such advantage on the ice.

Frederik Andersen continuously bailed out the Leafs when the Sabres broke down their defensive coverage, which happened far too often.

The Sabres were regularly holding the Leafs’ top two lines in their own zone, and the 1-2 punch of Rasmus’ (Rasmii? Rasmuses?), Dahlin and Ristolainen, were owning the neutral zone and driving the puck back against the Leafs. One such example is this through-the-legs shot by Ristolainen:

Some controversy came, as the Leafs were starting to feel like the refs had it out for them. This tackle by Ristolainen went uncalled:

The lack of offensive chances for the Leafs and the goaltending prowess of Andersen held the score at 0-0. The Sabres outshot the Leafs 14-7.

2nd period

The Leafs looked like a whole new team to start the second period. There was a lot of energy in their legs, and they were able to have much more control of the puck in the Sabres’ zone.

The new found legs led to some more chances, and the more chances led to some luck, as this shot from Matthews sneaks its way into the net on the wraparound:

After a Sabres powerplay that was shortened by a great shorthanded play by Hyman, the Sabres found the tying goal on a great tip by Sam Reinhart:

However, right before the end of the period, Jake Gardiner made a solid play to turn the puck over in the defensive zone, and then follows the play up to finish off a great passing play from Marner to Tavares to Gardiner to the back of the net.

The period ended 2-1 for the Leafs, and the shot on net were 26-17 for the Sabres.

3rd period

The final frame of the game started with a great shift from the Tavares line, with Gardiner’s support from the blue line, but didn’t find any dangerous chances that they could bury.

Instead, it was the Sabres who found the back of the net on an incredible pass from Rasmus Ristolainen that goes across the zone for a Jack Eichel one-timer:

The Leafs looked to be away with the lead when John Tavares, Eleven Million Dollar Man, was away on a shorthanded breakaway but a great glove save by Linus Ullmark kept the game tied.

The Sabres got the upper hand for the first time of the game, as Jack Eichel buried his second of the night to make it 3-2:

But, the Leafs got the goal back on a nice play at the side of the net by Patrick Marleau:

The period ended there, and we’re off to OT.

Overtime

Truthfully, there wasn’t much of an exciting overtime to watch in this one. There were a couple good shots by the Leafs, and some good zone time by the Sabres, but this one was so close to heading to a shootout…

But it didn’t! A great breakout from Kapanen gets them into the zone with less than 10 seconds left, and Matthews gets the puck in the slot, pulls the toe drag to change the angle on Ullmark, and finds the top shelf for the game winning goal

Final Thoughts

This was a back and forth game as division rivalry matchups always promise to be. With the Leafs coming out on top, they climb back into the 2nd position in the Atlantic division over tonight’s opponent, 38 points to 37.

This was a tough game for the Leafs but getting the win with just a few seconds remaining made it an exciting one.

My three stars for tonight’s game:

  1. Auston Matthews (2G)
  2. Jake Gardiner (1G, 1A)
  3. Rasmus Ristolainen (1A)

Have a great night folks, thanks for reading, and go leafs go!

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  • Matmarwill

    The buds actually out-shot-attempted the sabres, tho often the sabres seemed to be controlling the play. Buffalo is much improved. That OT slingshot by Matthews was classic.