Good news: The Leafs are finally coming together. This was a third straight great effort and complete domination of the Sabres. Ryan Miller is the only reason that the Sabres got one point let alone two. Jonas Gustavsson made the saves when he was called upon. The forecheck was relentless and Tyler Myers is so hilariously overrated and he has a puny slapshot.
Bad News: It's only one point.
Update: More after the jump
The good thing about the Leafs saving Matt Stajan's posterior with a late equaliser is that the Leafs got a point in addition to the moral victory. The Leafs should have won this game going away but a couple of posts, a falling defenceman, a bad giveaway, and some shoddy early refereeing conspired to rob the Leafs of what they deserved.
The buds ran into their customary penalty trouble early in the first as some chintzy calls went against them and then the inevitable bad bounce struck. A point shot on a 5-on-3 hit Mike Komisarek's leg, hit Jonas Gustavsson's left leg and slid out into the crease before getting slammed home. Ian White levelled later in the first with a laser beam over Ryan Miller's shoulder as Alexei Ponikarovsky set a great screen. Too bad they got away from creating that kind of traffic in front of the American.
The repeated 5-on-3s (good luck getting one in return though) helped highlight Luke Schenn's best game of the year. The big storyline on Sportsnet before the game was whether, based on Luke Schenn's stuttering start, the panel would ignore an entire season by the Leafs blueliner in order to draft his former partner Tyler Myers who had played 9 games prior to last night. The shocking thing was that Nick Kypreos was the voice of reason on the panel. Of course, based on last night's performances it's no contest. While Schenn was a defensive stalwart, especially on the penalty kill, Tyler Myers was turning over the puck six times in his own zone, taking two terrible penalties, and generally looking skittish under the pressure of the Leafs' forecheck.
The Leafs got behind thanks to finally being punished after some atrocious offensize zone turnovers. Tim Connolly, in one of his 15 games this year, potted on a breakaway after Niklas Hagman gave the puck away. They were unlucky not to get the lead in the third as they dominated to the extent that even their fans had to admit it:
The third period was all Leafs but Ryan Miller was the best player on the ice. He played a game of anything you can do, I can do better with the Leafs players and they were left shaking their head. The Sabres seemed well on their way to victory when Matt Stajan took a dumb interference penalty with 54 seconds left to play. Just 16 seconds later Mikhail Grabovski tipped a Tomas Kaberle shot by Miller and the Leafs had tied the game. That penalty eventually haunted the Leafs when Tim Connolly netted his second of the game with a blast from the point just two seconds before the Stajan penalty expired.
That interference penalty looked like it had torpedoed the Leafs' chances before John Mitchell bulled his way down the wing, got the puck back to Tomas Kaberle and Grabovski deflected his floating wrister past Miller. Unfortunately for the Leafs, the Stajan penalty didn't expire at the end of the period and Connolly potted his second past a Thomas Vanek screen (probably the only time the $7.2M man made an appearance).
So all in all, another strong performance and a 4th point in 3 games. The team will be tested tonight though as Vesa Toskala will be getting the start. It will be interesting to see what impact his presence will have on the team's improved forecheck.